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Violence against women rife in eastern Europe

Cristina Burack
March 6, 2019

The OSCE spoke face-to-face with over 15,000 women to gather data on the prevalence of sexual, physical and psychological violence in southeastern and eastern Europe. The results showed a "grim picture."

A woman cowers against the wall as a person stands before her
Image: picture alliance/dpa

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published Wednesday the "grim" results of a large-scale survey on violence against women in eight different countries in eastern and southeastern Europe.

The representative report surveyed around 15,000 women aged 18-74 in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, Moldova, Ukraine and Kosovo, asking them about their experiences of violence and abuse since the age of 15.

Key findings on violence

  • Some 70 percent of women said they had experienced some form of violence since the age of 15, with 31 percent saying this had occurred within the last 12 months.
  • Twenty-three percent of women responded that they had experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner, while 18 percent said they had experienced this from a non-partner.
  • Family members were responsible for 31 percent of non-partner physical violence experienced by women.
  • Psychological violence is the most common form of violence against women, with 60 percent of women reporting this from a partner.
  • All women can experience violence, but women who are poorer, economically dependent or have children are more at risk.
  • Women with a tertiary education tend to experience higher rates of violence, particularly from non-partners.

"Violence against women and girls is a persistent human rights violation," the organization said in its report, adding, "the OSCE recognizes violence against women and girls as both a threat to individuals and a broader security."

Norms and attitudes

The report, which was both quantitative and qualitative, also examined norms and attitudes towards women and violence in the surveyed countries.

"Beliefs in female subservience, spousal obedience and silence surrounding VAWG [violence against women and girls] continue to persist in the region," it said.

Read more: Opinion: Violence against women is a universal problem

Nearly six in 10 women thought that violence against women was very or fairly common. However, the findings pointed out that many women do not report experiences of violence because they distrust authorities or do not feel informed about what to do.

The organization said the survey aimed to address a lack of sufficient data and compliment an EU-wide survey that had been undertaken in 2014.

Thomas Greminger
Greminger presented the report to the press on WednesdayImage: picture-alliance/dpa/V. Belousov

Read more: Sexual abuse and violence against women widespread in Europe's parliaments

Goals for the future

The secretary general of the OSCE, Thomas Greminger, described the report as "an important step towards eliminating violence against women."

"Ultimately, we need to use the results to achieve specific policy goals: reduced violence against women, improved services for survivors and greater security for women and girls overall," he added.

Greminger presented the results alongside the EU's gender advisor, Mara Marinaki.

The survey was undertaken in conjunction with various partners, including the European Commission, UN Women and Germany's permanent mission to the OSCE.

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