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Violence against women and girls: EU guidelines

Violence against women and girls: EU guidelines



EU guidelines on violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them


  • The EU is committed to long-term action on women’s rights, focusing on combating violence against women* and girls.
  • The guidelines set out targets to encourage action and commitment from EU countries and the rest of the world.


Violence against women and girls is a worldwide phenomenon, with its roots in economic and power inequalities between the sexes, customs, traditions, religious values, political instability and armed conflict.

It has serious consequences for the physical and mental health of victims, as well as society in general.

The guidelines have 3 interlinked aims:

  • to prevent violence against women and girls;
  • to protect and support victims;
  • to prosecute those who commit such violence.

To achieve these, with the cooperation of EU countries, the guidelines seek to:

  • promote equality and fight discrimination against women, acknowledging that obstacles to socioeconomic and political rights increase women’s exposure to violence;
  • focus on legislation and public policies which discriminate against women and girls, combating discrimination in private life and gender stereotyping;
  • improve data collection, and find better ways of recognising the signs of violence against women;
  • design collaborative strategies that really work, involving every individual and sector in society, including politicians and the media;
  • challenge the impunity * of those who commit violence, and make sure they are held to account;
  • ensure that acts of violence are investigated swiftly and seriously, and that the criminal justice system works in ways which encourage women to give evidence;
  • improve law enforcement training, legal aid, victim and witness protection, and create conditions where victims are no longer economically dependent on those committing violence.

The EU will regularly raise the issue outside the EU, including at the United Nations (UN). Reference will also be made to women’s rights in all the mandates of the EU’s special representatives and envoys. In particular, the EU will encourage countries to ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The EU aims to prevent violence and help victims through support for:

  • access to justice for the victims of violence;
  • the role of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women in situations where violence is widespread and goes unpunished;
  • measures against impunity by monitoring court proceedings;
  • women’s rights defenders and female human rights defenders*;
  • free psychological help, legal assistance, accommodation and the reintegration of victims with their children;
  • access to information and health services, particularly in relation to sexual and reproductive health;
  • programmes promoting the right to take decisions relating to sexuality, without being subjected to coercion, discrimination or violence;
  • programmes targeted at women who are in a situation which increases their risk of being victims of violence;
  • education in the fundamental rights and empowerment of women and girls;
  • awareness raising, focusing on gender equality and stereotyping, particularly aimed at men and boys;
  • programmes aimed at improving the economic independence of women;
  • campaigns focusing on dealing with the systematic neglect of girls, particularly in relation to official birth registration and schooling.

In exceptionally serious cases, for example where violence is perpetrated or tolerated by a country contrary to international commitments, the EU may take specific measures.


The guidelines draw upon a range of studies and initiatives, including the UN Secretary-General’s in-depth study on violence against women (2006), the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (2008), UN resolution 61/143 on eliminating violence against women (2006) and UN Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008) on women, peace and security.

They also draw upon Resolution 2005/2215 of the European Parliament on the situation of women in armed conflicts and their role in reconstruction.

For more information, see also:


Violence against women: any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty. This may occur within the family or the general community, or be perpetrated or condoned by the country as a whole.
Impunity: exemption or freedom from punishment for harm caused.
Human rights defenders: individuals or groups that promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including women’s rights


EU guidelines on violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them, General Affairs Council of 8 December 2008


Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA (OJ L 315, 14.11.2012, pp. 57–73)

Regulation (EU) No 1381/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 establishing a Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme for the period 2014 to 2020 (OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, pp. 62–72)

last update 27.06.2016