In recent years, women's exposure to sexual abuse and harassment has risen to the surface and #metoo was an eye-opener for the magnitude of the problem.
In the EU alone, 102 million women have been subjected to sexual harassment according to a survey published by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2014. In the survey, every third women participating stated that they had been exposed to physical, sexual or psychological violence, and more than half of the women stated that they had been sexually harassed at least once.
It’s clear that sexual harassment and abuse is a major global problem where women’s bodies are being reduced to objects, objects which men recklessly consider they have the right to take advantage of. To break this completely unacceptable pattern, vigorous actions must be taken by the EU.
Putting an end to the sexual violence and abuse that women are exposed to is one of EU’s biggest equality challenges.
For this reason, the EU and the governments of member states need to support organisations standing on the front line in the work against sexual abuse and sexual violence.
Now that more women than before have the courage to report, speak out, and seek support for their experiences, the civil society organisations with the top skills in the field must be supported so that they have the resources to help all the women needing support.
With their limited economic means, the severely limited women’s organisations in the EU’s member states have difficulties in keeping the facilities open. Not only do the member states need to take responsibility to support these organisations but the EU must also support them.
I would also like the definition of all forms of violence against women to be harmonised within the EU. Today we have EU directives implemented at national level saying that member states have an obligation to protect women from sexual harassment in their everyday life. But since the member states have different views regarding what is considered sexual harassment, the directives have not reached the desired effect.
The fact that member states interpret directives in different ways becomes very clear when looking at how only twelve of the EU member states, including Sweden, have criminalised sexual harassment.
If the EU could harmonise the definition of all types of violence against women, then the offenses could be exposed, prevented and criminalised in the same way.