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No means No

Sexual violence, including rape, continues to be one of the most devastating forms of violence against women, yet it is too often a taboo subject and remains shrouded in silence. The results of the survey on violence against women carried out by the Fundamental Right’s Agency (FRA) show that 11 % of women in the EU have suffered some form of sexual violence by a partner or a non-partner since the age of 15.

The emotional and psychological consequences of this traumatic experience for the victims are extremely severe and can be even more hampered by the gender myths and stereotypes about male and female sexuality that are still prevalent in society. In the majority of countries, there are no specialised services and helplines for women victims of rape and everywhere women survivors still face lack of specific services and resources. Gender myths and stereotypes are also still widespread among police, prosecutors and judges.

Women often face additional risks when reporting rape to the authorities. This might explain why 85% of the most serious incident of sexual violence is not reported to the police. Existing comparative research shows that, on average, only 14% of reported rapes ends in a conviction, with rates falling as low as 5% in some countries in Europe.

We fully support the adequate implementation of Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. We believe it will make an enormous impact on the eradication of violence against women, including sexual violence, as it sets standards for practical measures to address the problem from its roots.

This is why the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), its members at national level and the EWL Observatory on Violence Against Women have been advocating for the signature, ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention by all European countries and for the accession to the Convention by the European Union as a whole.

You will remember, in 2013, EWL published the EWL Barometer on rape in Europe which provides an important European overview of legislation and data collection practices comparing European countries with regard to the extent of their compliance with human rights standards, specially the Istanbul Convention.

Thanks to the efforts of the EWL and human rights CSO’s in Europe, the Council of Europe Convention has recently reached the minimum of 10 necessary ratifications and will enter into force this summer. Further action is needed at all policy levels to ensure that all European countries ratify the Convention and to ensure that the provisions of the Istanbul Convention are adequately and timely implemented.

Especially after the European Parliament elections of May 2014 and its outcome with an increase of right-wing parties, your support is needed more than ever on EU level. Right-wing party policies are not only homophobic and racist but even more misogynist. In our Manifesto “Act now for her future, commit to gender equality” for these elections we call on the EU to establish 2016 as the EU Year to End Violence against Women, and on the European Parliament to set up an intergroup on sexual violence to continue raising awareness and fostering change. Do not hesitate to sign this demand for an EU Year to End Violence against women on our website www.womenlobby.org and to spread the word across your networks.

To further strengthen our work and continue to empower women & girls, the European Women’s Lobby is very grateful for your support. Every financial donation contributes to making gender equality a reality across a Europe free from violence against women.