PES Women: to protect women’s rights we must defend human rights defenders

Members of the PES Women Executive meeting by videoconference, 9 December 2022

Today, on International Human Rights Defenders Day (9 December) – and ahead of International Human Rights Day tomorrow (10 December) – PES Women’s message is clear: women’s rights are human rights and their defenders are essential for democracies everywhere.

At a time when human rights advocates face intimidation, detention, and criminal charges – such as campaigners in Poland face now – PES Women Executive members today called on EU leaders and politicians to defend human rights defenders by putting women’s rights at the top of the agenda.

View more images from the PES Women awareness raising campaign

Today’s call for action comes on the final day of PES Women’s 16 days of activism to eliminate gender-based violence, which began on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November).

For PES Women, human rights in Europe and across the world will never be secure when half the population face – or have already suffered – physical, psychological, economic, or institutional violence, off- and online.

As part of the 16 days of activism PES Women promoted its manifesto to make Europe a zero-tolerance zone for gender-based violence, launched a ‘police-tape’ awareness-raising photo campaign, and put forward demands focused on ending violence against women.

PES Women President Zita Gurmai said:

“Looking back on this year, still not enough progress has been made on gender equality. The number of femicides in all EU countries is staggering, and much more remains to be done. Positive steps have come with the Commission proposal on a Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence, so women in all EU countries have the same right to prevention and protection. Now it is time to adopt it urgently.

“Over the last 16 days of activism, we have demanded zero tolerance towards gender-based violence in our manifesto and throughout our campaign. Power structures in our societies are still prevalent and education is key to break down the patriarchal structures which harm us all, men included. This is why we call for a gender-aware and consent-based culture, with legislation and its implementation which at least covers the scope of the Istanbul Convention.”

At the EU level, PES Women calls for more awareness raising, better data collection, legal and financial support, and greater accountability for human rights violations. More women decision makers, access to abortion in the EU Charter for Fundamental rights, the swift approval of the EU-wide law on violence against women, guaranteed equal pay, and a care economy would all also improve gender equality across the EU. 

Around the world, ongoing protests in Iran and Afghanistan are clear signals that women’s rights are an international issue which merits being mainstreamed into foreign policy and enshrined in all international legislation. In the US, the reversal of Roe v. Wade heavily influenced midterm elections, proving once again that voters want governments to protect women’s rights.