03/03/2014 07:27 GMT | Updated 02/05/2014 06:59 BST

Violence Against Women: Enough Is Enough


The statistics only tell half the story. They show that nearly half of all women (45%) in Europe have been the victim of some form of violence; 20-25% have experienced physical violence at least once and more than 1-in-10 has been subject to sexual violence involving force.

What they don't spell out is that if violence against women is so common, many of your friends, family members and perhaps even you or your partner are victims. This is not some rare occurrence or abstract dilemma, but something that affects millions of women every day. Some 3,500 die as a result of domestic violence in Europe every year.

To raise awareness of the issue, this year's International Women's Day on 8 March is dedicated to stopping violence against women. The European Parliament is organising several special events this week to tie in with the theme, which can be followed live on the website.

However, the European Parliament has been doing a lot more than just talking. Over the years MEPs have adopted many laws covering issues linked to gender violence such as trafficking, forced prostitution and female genital mutilation. The Parliament first called attention to violence against women in a resolution on 11 June 1986, which was followed by other resolutions calling for action.

MEPs have been especially keen to push for a European strategy. There is no common definition of violence against women in Europe. As member states have adopted different approaches to the problem, women do not enjoy the same level of protection across the EU.

In January the Parliament's women's rights committee adopted a report with recommendations to combat violence against women calling on the European Commission to present a European strategy and action plan within the next three years. MEPs are expected to vote on the report in the coming months.

Despite the statistics, it's still difficult to know the true extent of the problem. According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, two thirds of women who suffer physical or sexual violence do not report the crime to the police or anyone else. In order to find out the real scale of violence against women the agency conducted the largest-ever EU-wide survey on the subject involving 42,000 women from all 28 member states. The results will be presented to the women's right committee on 5 March.

Photo copyright: European Parliament