Measuring violence against women in the EU

The British Chamber blog is written by guest bloggers and their comments do not reflect the views of the British Chamber

Eradicating all forms of violence against women is a priority of the European Union (EU) and its Member States. The EU recently affirmed this commitment by signing the leading legal instrument on combating gender-based violence: the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). The ratification of the Istanbul Convention by the EU will improve complementarity between national and EU levels for an integrated approach to combating violence against women.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) has developed a framework to measure violence against women to support this process. It can be used as a tool to help the EU and its Member States fulfill the monitoring and reporting responsibilities that result from their commitment to the Convention. Bringing data together and measuring the extent of violence is essential for adequate policies to be designed, implemented and monitored.

EIGE’s unique measurement tool – the Gender Equality Index[1] provides scores for every Member State and the EU as a whole to measure their progress in achieving gender equality. The domain of Violence has been a part of the Gender Equality Index since the beginning, as violence is rooted in the unequal status of men and women, however it could not be fully populated due to the lack of data. As the availability of data improved, the third edition of the Index (2017) presents a comprehensive measurement framework to monitor violence in a comparable way. The phenomenon of violence against women is closely interconnected with the other domains of the Index and assessed in the broader context of gender equality.

The measurement framework of the domain of Violence sheds light on the spectrum of violence against women that ranges from harassment to killing (femicide). It also provides a more nuanced depiction of the phenomenon.

EIGE additional indicator illustrationThe structure of this framework has three layers.

The first layer contains data on the forms of violence against women that are the most common and widely criminalised. This data is available in all EU countries, therefore comparable and used in the composite measure. The scores given to the EU and each Member State are based on this data.

The framework also includes additional indicators to give a more nuanced picture of violence against women. It is the second layer that measures forms of violence that are very serious but not yet measured in most countries. Some of them, such as stalking and psychological violence are not yet widely criminalised. They provide an overview of the extent of various forms of violence described in the Istanbul Convention as well as data on trafficking in human beings and femicide[2]. These indicators could be included in the calculation of the single score if more reliable and comparable data become available.

The third layer reflects the obligations set out in the Istanbul Convention as well as information on the root causes of violence against women. It covers six dimensions: policies, prevention, protection and support, legislation, involvement of law enforcement agencies and public attitudes towards violence against women and gender equality. This layer helps us answer important questions, for example, is violence against women more common in countries where public attitudes show a higher tolerance to violence? Are health consequences mitigated where support services are widely available? Once populated with data, this layer will help us understand the trends in combating violence and identify strategies that work.

To reveal the complexity of the violence phenomenon, the composite measure, which is based on the data of the first layer of the framework, includes three aspects: prevalence, severity and disclosure of violence against women. The prevalence sub-domain measures physical and sexual violence against women. Severity measures the impact of violence on women’s lives; and disclosure reveals their readiness to disclose their experience. On a scale of 1 to 100, 1 represents a situation where violence is non-existent and 100 represents a situation where violence against women is extremely common, highly severe and not disclosed.

For the first time we have single comparable scores for each of the countries and for the EU at large. The EU’s score is 27.5 out of 100, showing that the phenomenon is prevalent, severe and underreported. The national scores range from 22.1 in Poland to 44.2 in Bulgaria.

One of the important findings is that almost one in two women (47%) in the European Union who have experienced violence have never told anyone, whether that be the police, health services, a friend, neighbour or colleague[3]. This lack of reporting shows that women are not receiving the support they need nor are protected from further violence.

The recent worldwide social media campaign #MeToo that aims to break the silence on sexual harassment and violence shows that things can change. In light of allegations in the media, the European Parliament has put forward a resolution on combating sexual harassment and abuse in the parliament and the wider EU. It encourages victims to speak out and calls on politicians to act as responsible role models in preventing and combating sexual harassment. Directors of nine EU Justice and Home Affairs  Agencies (JHA) have also signed a joint statement on zero tolerance for sexual harassment and violence against women in the workplace. Men Directors of JHA joined the White Ribbon Campaign, taking a pledge never to tolerate or remain silent about violence against women.

EIGE logo EN


EIGE is committed to providing research and measurement tools for policymakers to help them prepare targeted policies to eradicate violence against women. Find the full report here.


[1] European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) (2013b), Gender Equality Index — Report, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, available at:
[2] Femicide has been used to refer to a wide range of violent acts, such as so-called honour killings, female infanticide, pre-adolescent mortality of girls and dowry-related deaths (United Nations, 2012). EIGE defines femicide as ‘the killing of a woman by an intimate partner and death of a woman as a result of a practice that is harmful to women.’
[3] Percentage of women (aged 18-74) in the EU-28 who have not disclosed their experience of sexual and/or physical violence since the age of 15 to anyone. Source: EIGE’s calculation, FRA, Violence against women: an EU-wide survey, 2012

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