Mr Mikael Gustaffson, President of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

Interviewer: Violence against women and girls is the most pervasive human rights violation. According to the Council of Europe, it is estimated that in Europe, 20% to 25% of women have suffered from physical violence at least once during their lives and one up to ten have suffered from sexual violence. Also, there is a deep division of opinion as to how to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls. As chairman of the Women’s Committee, could you explain what your Committee is doing to achieve this purpose and what you will commit to do at the EU level to end violence against women and girls?

Mr. Gustaffson: The FEMM Committee had worked during several legislatures with this issue. In 2010 we adopted a report (Svensson report) outlining the main elements of what we as EP would like to see in an EU strategy against VAW. And at this very moment our committee is doing another report – legislative Initiative report. The blockages for any EU action actually in my view lies with the European commission, that despite repeated requests from both EP and Council, has not come forward with any real initiatives in this domain.

Int: Various provisions in international instruments oblige States to take ‘appropriate’ measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women. A variety of legislative, protective and preventive measures are necessary to effectively combat the phenomena. In your opinion, which are the policies that are considered to be ‘good’ for achieving this purpose?

M.G. : Addressing VAW requires a coherent and holistic approach, with prevention and protection measures, and instruments to punish perpetrators as well; But also, since VAW is both a consequence and a cause of unequal power relations between women and me in our societies, we absolutely also must address this; Working to end VAW and girls therefore also demands to work to end gender discrimination and injustices, and to change so that resources and power are distributed increasingly to women.

Int: In your opinion, does the EU legislation on violence against women need to be reviewed or are the existing instruments good enough to stop this atrocity? M.G. : I think we need a new legal instrument – a directive setting minimum levels and that covers all forms of violence.

Int: According to data provided by the Council of Europe, the estimated cost of gender violence is 34 million per year for violence against women (16 million for domestic violence). Over the last decade, the EU has supported more than 100 projects targeting violence against women and girls, with a total investment of 80 million Euros. This includes the EU Daphne programme. In the future, how will the EU manage to continue funding the fight against violence against women?

M.G. : At the moment the negotiations are still ongoing, but it is clear that there will be no specific EU programme for funding actions against VAW. These actions will part of the so called Rights and Citizenship programme. However, I still hope that we will manage to single out VAW as a specific priority areas under this programme, and that there will be earmarked funding. Specific objectives and specific funding is needed. Otherwise we are not being serious in our work to end VAW and girls.

Int: During the 6th February’s plenary session of the European Parliament, you recalled that the EU has an important role in the promotion of measures and concrete commitments through information campaigns and awareness in development policy, and that the EU must fight all forms of violence not only inside but also outside its territory. Could you give more details about the measures and actions that you are going to take inside and outside the EU’s borders?

M.G. : VAW must be prioritized also in the external work of the EU – that means in the new DCI, and in the country programmes, and also in all the work of the EEAS. Here much remains to be done.

Int: EU delegation participated in the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. Coming back from the 3-days session (4-6 march), you have expressed your wish for a positive outcome of this capital CSW session dedicated to combat violence against women and girls. Are you satisfied with the ‘agreed conclusions’ adopted? What will your Committee do in order to support UN efforts in the fight against violence?

M.G. : UN Women is a key player when it comes to supporting the implementation of the agreed conclusions. And the FEMM committee is a strong supporter of the UN Women and we collaborate closely. We have therefore also urged the EU and the Member states to increase its financial support to this structure and to all the UN global work against VAW. Without money and other resources, little progress can be made…

Int: During the last decade, some progress has been made in improving targets for female education and access to health care, but in many parts of the world women are still suffering the serious consequences of violence against them. What is the impact of pro-equality campaigns such as “One Billion Rising” on violence against women?

M.G. : All campaigns to raise awareness and to create visibility and awareness are essential in the struggle to stop VAW and girls. And Vday has been an extremely important actor in this – I hope they will continue, and I hope that the number of women and men all over the world who stand up against VAW will continue to grow !

Antonella Del Prete