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OSCE - Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

11/25/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/25/2021 10:47

OSCE joins the 16 Days of Activism campaign and calls on states to combat gender-based violence in all its forms

STOCKHOLM / VIENNA / WARSAW, 25 November 2021 - 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 increase their efforts and resources to combat violence against women and girls, including violence enabled by digital technology.

According to the 2019 OSCE-led Survey on the Well-being and Safety of Women, two out of three women have experienced at least one form of violence since the age of 15. Moreover, the report noted the increase in experiences of violence committed online, with young women being at particular risk, due to an increase in the use of digital technologies in the past two decades.

OSCE Chairperson-in-office Ann Linde emphasized the importance of a strong and comprehensive response in effectively combating gender-based violence in all its forms. "Unfortunately, violence against women and girls is present in all our societies. To eliminate it, we need strong policy and law-making efforts - including for women's economic empowerment - but also a change of attitude regarding these crimes."

Gender-based violence is a serious security concern but its digital form is still too often not recognized and addressed. OSCE leaders stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in all types of violence against women and girls, including digital violence.

OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid urged participating States to improve legal and policy frameworks to address digital forms of gender-based violence. "Security threats are becoming increasingly complex, particularly when they change quickly like digital forms of gender based violence. Our approach to finding solutions must also evolve. The OSCE already works to enhance the capacity of policymakers and law enforcement in our participating States to combat violence against women. We plan to expand this assistance to tackle these despicable acts in the digital realm as well," Schmid said.

Violence and abuse of women in political and public life affects all countries across the OSCE, with women active in politics or aspiring to a political role, women running for elections, and women human rights defenders often finding themselves targeted.

"The chilling effect of violence and threats on- and offline is stopping women from taking an active role in public life, with negative consequences for their participation in political debates that affect their lives," said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. "Far too often, this violence or fear of it is preventing women and girls from living their lives freely and to their full potential."