Do we need an EU directive against domestic violence?

domestic violence Do we need an EU directive against domestic violence?

Despite sky-high unemployment and a struggling economy, gender equality remains an important priority in the European Union. Sergei Stanishev, President of the Party of European Socialists, listed it as one of his top three priorities in our recent head-to-head debate, and, this week, the Irish Presidency of the European Council is holding a conference in Dublin on the topic, covering many of the same issues we raised in our themed week on gender equality back in March.

We wanted to return to that debate and take a look at a few related issues we didn’t get to discuss last time, so we spoke to Dagmar Schumacher, Director of the UN Women Brussels Liason Office. We asked her what she thought are some of the key challenges to women’s socio-economic empowerment, both in Europe and around the world.

Schumacher’s argument that violence against women is one of the key barriers to gender equality was interesting, and it’s something we didn’t really discuss last time. We did have one comment sent in from Ariste, who thought the blame for inequality between the sexes fell squarly on the shoulders of men and their value system:

Women are purposefully kept out of the good jobs and equality does not exist… Men are always trying to impose their values on everything, and frankly that is why we have so much family violence, and women get the nonsense jobs.

We asked Schumacher to respond:

We also had the opportunity to take Ariste’s comment to Blerina Vila, a Programme Officer at the International Labour Organization, to see how she would react.

Vila’s response to Ariste was interesting, particularly her argument that a patriarchal value system harms the development of men as well as women:

I would suggest that we not see this as a war of the sexes… both men and women are, in many cases, trapped in values, such as patriarchal values, that are oppressive first and foremost for women, but also for men… I do believe that the values of patriarchal systems, that are also encrusted in institutional frameworks – to some extent in Europe as well – are making victims as much among men as women.

coche orange Do we need an EU directive against domestic violence?

At the moment, each Member State can decide for themselves what measures to take against domestic violence. I think an EU directive is necessary because it would be  obligatory for all Member States.

For example, in Poland, due to strong pressure from the Catholic Church, for a long time the government didn’t sign the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. And, for the moment, it’s not ratified. It’s the same situation in many European countries; many Member States haven’t ratified it yet, and a convention which is not ratified is not implemented…

I also hope that an EU directive would help create a common European procedure to deal with the people who actually commit violence against women. So, for example, in many countries the person who  commits the violence remains at home, and it is the woman who has to move with the children to a different place.

What do YOU think? Should there be an EU directive harmonising the procedures for combating violence against women? Do patriarchal values harm the development of men as fathers and rolemodels, or do they represent traditional family values that help bind society together? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

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