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Violence against women endangers the security of societies

Violence against women endangers the security of our societies and must end, OSCE leaders say

WARSAW, 16 November 2021 – More decisive action needs to be taken across the OSCE region to work towards eliminating violence against women, who continue to face violence in both public and private, OSCE leaders said on the opening of a two-day conference dedicated to preventing and combating violence against women and girls.

“Violence against women is both a grave violation of their human rights and a threat to human security,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “Leaders of countries across the OSCE need to take responsibility and more decisive action to make their societies safe for women – not just to live in, but to live well and play an active role in shaping their future. This is no longer the time for complacency or delays – our societies expect effective measures to prevent and stop violence against women for the current generations and all those who come after us.”

“Violence against women is both a grave violation of their human rights and a threat to human security”

ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci.

Almost 400 people have registered for the two-day conference, which will serve as a platform for a discussion between OSCE states, international organisations, and the many civil society organisations across the OSCE working to make the region a safer place for all women and girls. A specific emphasis will be placed on women belonging to vulnerable groups in particular migrants, refugees and displaced persons, and people at risk of displacement as well as Roma and Sinti women.

There have been improvements in combating violence against women, for example in legislation that criminalises domestic violence or through new helplines and other services, increasing support for survivors. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns and restrictions led to an increase in reported violence against women across the OSCE region. As people spend ever more time online for both work and pleasure, a larger proportion of women are also finding themselves the target of abuse online.

A key part of the discussions will be the chilling effect of violence or simply fear of it, which is stopping women from taking an active role in public life, and therefore from participating in policy- and decision-making. Violence against women smothers their voice and participation, whether as politicians, human rights defenders, military or police officers, or simply active citizens engaging in the public democratic space.

“Strengthening gender equality has been a key priority throughout the Swedish Chairpersonship of the OSCE, as there is a direct link between gender equality and comprehensive security,” said Ambassador Ulrika Funered, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the OSCE. “Violence against women and girls is a persistent human rights violation that not only threatens the security and safety of its victims, but also hinders women and girls around the world from being full and equal participants in society.” 

All countries across the OSCE have committed to combating violence against women and underlined the importance of actively addressing the root causes of gender inequality and violence, in order to not just address the violence once it has taken place, but to prevent it. In this, policies that engage men in measures to prevent gender-based violence are particularly important. Close co-operation with civil society is also key to finding solutions that both protect and support survivors.

Human Dimension Seminars are a platform for the OSCE’s participating States and OSCE institutions, as well as international organizations and civil society, to exchange views and good practices on a specific issue of topical relevance across the OSCE region.

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