President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca addressed a meeting of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM), at the European Parliament in Brussels. The President’s remarks focused on the outcomes of a four-year European Union Cooperation on Science and Technology, known as COST. Concluded earlier this year, this cooperation was entitled ‘Femicide across Europe.’
The COST initiative focused on women’s wellbeing in the European Union, and its outcomes have important implications for the future of all women in Europe. The COST initiative successfully facilitated a network of experts and researchers, to tackle urgent issues of violence experienced by women across the European Union.
“The network specifically focused on femicide, which is to say, the most lethal and criminal forms of violence, and the leading cause of female homicides worldwide,” the President said, whilst adding that the initiative also created a much-needed opportunity, for over 80 international experts, which mainly concluded that there is an urgent need for the creation of a Europe-wide observatory on Femicide.
President Coleiro Preca said that through the creation of such an observatory, the European Union will finally be able to effectively organise and collate relevant information, from across the European Union, for the benefit of all women in all the countries.
“We must monitor and evaluate, through an ongoing process, to be able to inform and influence policy and action”
The President said this in light of the fact that there is currently too much fragmentation within European Union nations, when it comes to the collection of essential data about violence against women, and in particular, where femicide is concerned, so much so that, “some of our countries have not yet begun collecting specific data in this area, while others still do not focus on vital gender-sensitive indicators, when it comes to issues of femicide.”
The EU’s positive support, received through the COST Action initiative, has shown that there is the goodwill, from the European Union, to put a spotlight on the scourge of femicide. The President told those present that “we cannot allow this serious crime against women to continue within our countries, without calling it by its name, and without exploring the root causes.”
President Coleiro Preca called for everyone to be bold, and to take steps to ensure that women and girls are protected, with the full extent of our laws and policies, adding that “such measures must form part of a larger transformation, within our societies.” Coleiro-Preca said that the visibility of women, needs to be prioritised so that “we respond to the challenges that they face.”
The President encouraged those present to help in keeping up the momentum which was created by the four-year, intensive research and consultative project.
“Now is the perfect time, for us to take our work, on behalf of all women in Europe, to another level.”
The President said that the COST Action networking project has already had positive outputs. In fact, the Action has led to the creation of an active community of researchers and practitioners, called the ‘Femicide Across Europe Network’, which is ready, and is able to lend its expertise to the implementation of an EU-wide observatory, which shall be of immense practical benefit, for policymakers in Europe.
The President appealed to the FEMM Committee to take up this proposal for an EU observatory on Femicide, and to help in lobbying for this observatory to be set up, saying that “when we prioritise the wellbeing of women and girls by safeguarding their dignity, we shall also be creating an environment of wellbeing which is felt by entire communities, across our societies.”
The President said the outcomes of this initiative cannot be left on the shelf, not when the European Commission’s Data states that 1 in 3 women in the European Union has been a victim of physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15; and that 1 in 20 women have been victims of rape and that 55% of women have been victims of sexual harassment.
The Istanbul Convention
President Coleiro Preca congratulated the Council of the European Union for deciding to join the Istanbul Convention, to address these concerns, and added that she feels truly proud that this decision of historical significance has taken place during Malta’s Presidency of the Council European Union.
The President said the Istanbul Convention is the strongest statement and framework, to address violence against women, through measures which prevent violence, which protect victims and which prosecute perpetrators. The EU’s decision to join the convention is another step in the right direction, towards greater harmonization within our nations, on issues of gender-based violence.
“Joining the convention, not only confirms the EU’s commitment, to combat violence against women. It also gives responsibility to do more, to strengthen existing frameworks, and to push for further practical action, such as a European Union-Level observatory on femicide, which can be one of our practical initiatives to bring to life the full force of the Istanbul Convention,” President Coleiro Preca stated.
The President said that one way to put this commitment into tangible action, and to build an effective European observatory grounded in the principles of the Istanbul Convention, is to invest in national monitors. These will feed into the observatory’s work – monitors which would be ideal opportunities for stronger collaborations between EU authorities, national governments, civil society, universities, and research institutions.
“We must also ensure that women themselves, and their experiences, are always, and in all ways, at the centre of our legislation and policy”
The President said that in this way, a holistic approach, across the European Union, to tackle issues of gender-based violence and femicide will be priorities. In this way also, “we shall be responding to the call, issued by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, for all states to participate in a global Femicide watch, which was created in 2015.”
Such efforts shall also bring the EU member states closer to achieving the full potential of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG Number 5, which clearly calls for an end to all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls, while also taking proactive measures to ensure equity and empowerment.
President Coleiro Preca said that the European Union must continue to have a guiding role, in the global effort to ensure that the potential of all women and girls is safeguarded, throughout policies and directives.
“The need for a designated observatory, which facilitates the wellbeing of women by focusing on the great risk of femicide, is clear”
The President announced that Malta is ready to assist in establishing and hosting the observatory, to continue with the leadership shown during the four year research project, by one of the leading researchers and experts in the area, Dr Marceline Naudi. Dr Naudi, together with other experts in the area, have played a formative role throughout the COST-Action, thus making them ideally placed to develop this initiative.
Lastly, the President appealed to all those present, to continue to strive, to create a European Union in which all women and girls are safe, in the knowledge that their nations are deeply committed to ensure their full potential, and to nurture and sustain their wellbeing.