Written by Rosamund Shreeves and Martina Prpic,

Woman victim of domestic violence and abuse. Husband intimidates his wife. Focus on hand
© Artem Furman / Adobe Stock

Violence against women is a violation of human rights and a form of gender-based discrimination. Rooted in inequalities between men and women, it takes many forms. Estimates of the scale of the problem are alarming. Such violence has a major impact on victims and imposes a significant cost burden on society.

The instruments put in place by the United Nations and Council of Europe, including the latter’s ‘Istanbul Convention’, to which the EU plans to accede, are benchmarks in efforts to combat violence against women.

The EU is tackling the problem in various ways, but has no binding instrument designed specifically to protect women from violence.

Although there are similarities between national policies to combat violence against women, the Member States have adopted different approaches to the problem.

Parliament’s efforts have focused on strengthening EU policy in the area. Parliament has repeatedly called for a European Union strategy to counter violence against women, including a legally binding instrument.

Stakeholders have expressed a range of concerns, also regarding the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the related need to expand and adapt support for victims, and have highlighted the need for a comprehensive EU political framework on eliminating violence against women. They have also launched new initiatives of their own.

This is a further update of an earlier briefing by Anna Dimitrova-Stull, of February 2014. The most recent previous edition was from November 2019.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Violence against women in the EU: State of play‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.