Violence against women costs EU countries around €289 billion every year
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Violence against women costs EU countries around €289 billion every year

There has been an increase in the number of sexual violence victims in Brussels. Credit: United Nations

Gender-based violence costs countries in the European Union around €366 billion a year, whilst violence against women makes up 79% of this cost, amounting to €289 billion.

Meanwhile, partner violence, which has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, accounts for almost half of the costs of gender-based violence, according to research by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).

“Human life, pain and suffering do not have a price. However, knowing the cost of violence can help EU countries channel money to where it’s really needed — and where it’s most cost-effective,” the report read.

When looking at the different costs of gender-based violence, the biggest cost comes from the physical and emotional impact (56 %), followed by criminal justice services (21 %) and lost economic output (14 %).

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Meanwhile, other costs can include civil justice services, covering divorces and child custody proceedings, housing aid and child protection.

The cost was calculated based on data from the United Kingdom that made predictions based on previous data, which linked the cost of gender-based violence in each EU Member State directly to its population size.

However, this data does not draw a fully accurate picture of the situation, as EU countries need detailed data from public services such as law enforcement and the justice sector to really understand the depth of the issue.

As gender-based violence is under-reported, the data is also not based on the true number of victims, but rather an estimate, as in many countries, not enough is done to get a realistic picture of gender-based violence, despite this being an obligation under the Istanbul Convention, which all EU countries have signed, but which Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia have not yet ratified.

Carlien Scheele, EIGE’s Director, stressed that EU countries need to invest more in activities that prevent violence against women and protect victims, adding that this is both a moral imperative, as well as savvy economics.

Legislative change

On Wednesday, the Civil Liberties and Women’s Rights committees of the European Parliament called for online and offline gender-based violence to be included as a new area of crime.

In a draft legislative initiative report, MEPs demand targeted legislation and policies which they argue should aim to address the situation of victims of violence and discrimination based on their gender, including men, women and people in the LGBTIQ+ community.

“We need strong legislation, but we also need to invest in women’s shelters, in education and in healthcare, including sexual and reproductive rights such as abortion rights,” Co-rapporteur Malin Björk said.

“The report recognises that LGBTI people are victims of gender-based violence as well, as they too suffer from gender inequalities and patriarchal stereotypes,” she added.

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