VIENNA – As many as 12 women are killed by their partners or family members every day in Europe alone. In 2008, more than one-third of all murders of women in Europe were carried out by the victim’s spouse or former spouse, and an additional 17% by a relative. (In the same year, only 5% of male homicides were committed by the victim’s spouse or former spouse.) These figures represent only a tiny fraction of the relentless assault on women occurring worldwide – one that is not confined by boundaries of wealth, culture, age, race, or geography.
Such violence is happening everywhere: at home, on the street, and in the workplace. In fact, the United Nations estimates that up to seven in ten women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence – or both – during their lifetime.
But violence against women can be difficult to detect. Even those who are aware of it may choose to ignore it, believing that it is none of their business or too widespread for them to make a difference, or because they are too busy to get involved. Clearly, a global shift is needed in gender-related attitudes and standards.
To this end, national governments have a responsibility to develop policies and practices that are sensitive to gender – policies that effectively discourage gender-based discrimination, while preventing violence, including by punishing its perpetrators. A shift in how governments address gender-based crimes could go a long way toward overcoming deep-rooted discriminatory mindsets and behaviors.