In the face of gender-based violence, early education is essential

Yves Herman via Reuters

Helena Dalli, European Commissioner in charge of Equality calls for the mobilization of all against violence against women.

GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE – One of the obstacles to combating gender-based violence is that it is still not fully perceived as a societal problem; a significant part of the European population continues to believe that such violence is primarily a domestic problem. Such an obstacle has consequences for victims: they may decide not to speak out or not to report the violence, and when they do, they may even be accused of it.

All too often, victims are asked about a supposed trigger, be it their behavior or their dress, as if the perpetrators of the violence were committing it for a justifiable reason. Such a shift in the center of attention is not uncommon. Indeed, 27% of EU citizens believe that non-consensual sex can be justified in certain situations. It is, however, a rape.

Nothing can ever justify gender-based violence and domestic violence. Achieving a uniform perception of this issue within society is a challenge, knowing how deeply such justifications can be embedded in our culture. For example, certain masterpieces of art and letters compromise our judgment by the beauty that shines through in the account of an attempted rape.

Take the case of the myth of Daphne and Apollo. In Ovid’s story, the god Apollo is hit by Cupid’s arrow and is excused because he cannot help but “fall in love” with the nymph Daphne. Ovid’s version depicts a frightened Daphne who flees from Apollo while he is chasing her. Although Daphne escapes aggression in her human form, she is nonetheless silenced and objectified to satisfy Apollo’s desire.

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#Metoo, engine of change

Changing societies and tackling misconceptions about gender-based violence require early education, including sexual education, and require investing in a comprehensive “zero tolerance for violence” strategy. ”Within the framework of public policies. Social movements such as #MeToo have emerged as real engines of change.

This movement has helped millions of women find the courage to stand up for themselves and make their voices heard. For its part, the European Commission is working to raise awareness through campaigns such as #SayNoStopVAW and the UNiTE campaign led by the United Nations. This increased attention to gender-based violence is long overdue and must be followed by a wide range of changes.

Many more men must also participate in this effort. We will only change the discourse with the contribution of all. It is just as important to take into account the perpetrators of violence, in particular to prevent them from reoffending. Finding the right approach in this regard is essential. Programs targeting perpetrators should provide broader education on gender-based violence and its consequences, and limit interventions to medical treatment related to mental health and substance abuse problems.

When it comes to the protection of victims, our duty is to avoid any secondary victimization, which in itself results from a misunderstanding of gender-based violence. Each EU member state needs to invest more in training professionals, including judges, police and social workers, in particular to enable them to ask the right questions and spot the right clues.

The European Judicial Training Network receives eleven million euros per year from the EU budget and has in the past organized seminars on gender-based violence and domestic violence, sexual exploitation linked to human trafficking human rights and victims’ rights in cases of violence against women and children.

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Our understanding of gender-based violence needs to keep pace with new technologies. According to a 2020 survey, 58% of girls have been harassed online and 50% say they are harassed more online than on the street, and these numbers have only increased in recent years. The pandemic and resulting lockdowns forced many of us to go online and underscored the fact that our digital realities must also be part of a safe online environment.

Gender-based violence occurs and can happen anywhere, including in the workplace, at school, on the streets or online. It harms the health and well-being of those affected, and limits their ability to thrive in society. It is neither inevitable nor an integral part of any culture, and it can be avoided. The first step towards eliminating this violence completely is to recognize it for what it is. This is what the Commission will do with its first forthcoming legislative proposal on combating and preventing gender-based violence and domestic violence.

On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, you too can make your contribution to the fight against gender-based violence. Be vigilant about the problem and share it in your social circles. Defend your point of view against this type of violence. We need everyone’s support to fight this scourge.

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