On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, OSCE leaders called on participating States to step up efforts to end gender-based violence in all spheres of life, including violence and harassment at home and in the workplace.
A recently released OSCE-led survey on violence against women was carried out in seven countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, Moldova and Ukraine. The research was also conducted in Kosovo. It shows that three in 10 women surveyed have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Many of the women surveyed saw workplace sexual harassment to be a common occurrence, demonstrating the urgency of the focus placed by this year’s 16 Days campaign on sexual harassment in the workplace.
OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Slovakia’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Miroslav Lajčák said: “When it comes to gender-based violence, we are saying all the right things, and we are doing more than ever. But it is not enough. Gender-based violence is still rife – in homes, in the workplace, in both peace and conflict settings. These 16 days are not just about saying the right things, but about focusing on concrete actions still left to take to turn the tide on gender-based violence.”
Gender-based violence hinders progress towards comprehensive security for all. It not only affects the personal safety and security of its victims, but can also prevent them from being active members of society or from using their skills and knowledge to their full potential.
OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger said: “As a regional security organization, the OSCE has a responsibility to combat violence against women and girls as a major human rights violation, and as a barrier to achieve security, stability and sustainable peace.” Greminger also noted the devastating impact of violence and sexual harassment in the workplace: “Zero tolerance to any form of gender-based violence is paramount to achieving equality in all spheres of life.”
The continued prevalence of gender-based violence in the OSCE area has a devastating effect on the lives of persons affected by it. Taking many forms, from sexual to economic and psychological, it cuts across geographical, cultural and class boundaries. It is a grave violation of human rights and its negative effects do not stop with the survivor but have a lasting impact on the community and on wider society.
“Many countries now have strong legislation to combat violence against women, and this is essential to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice,” said ODIHR Director Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir. “But once the violence has occurred, no form of compensation can make up for the harm that has been done to survivors. That’s why we need to increase our work with governments, law enforcement and the judiciary, and civil society, so that instead of combating the after-effects of sexual violence, we prevent it from happening in the first place.”