The economic tolls of gender-based violence
EIGE Director Carlien Scheele delivered a keynote address at the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union Conference in Stockholm, providing an economic perspective on gender-based violence to pave paths to prevention.
Carlien Scheele's keynote address starts at 36 minutes.
Dear honourable members and guests,
Thank you for inviting me here today to provide an economic perspective on gender-based violence.
This is an area EIGE has been well acquainted with since the beginning of its existence. Over the years our portfolio has been dedicated to expanding data and research to help end gender-based violence. The work won’t stop until it stops.
I will be sharing some of EIGE’s turning point evidence related to the intersection between women’s economic empowerment and violence against women as a form of gender-based violence.
But before I do that...
Imagine a room full of women – in fact I can see most of us here are women.
Now imagine that every third woman in this room will be a victim of violence in her lifetime.
This example is a fact.
Bringing it a bit closer to home - 35 % of women who experienced physical and/or sexual violence, experienced it in their own home.
You can see why this is one of EIGE’s ongoing and central priorities.
Gender equality is a human right. Violence against women – is a violation of this human right.
The impact of violence against women is serious and far-reaching: from the victim’s physical and mental health to the families and to wider society.
In a moment of violence, a victim can be left powerless and out of control. They can be left with fractures, broken bones, internal injuries, permanent injuries. You don’t need me to go into graphic detail, I am sure you can imagine it.
And let’s not forget one of the more hidden aspects of violence against women: the psychological impact.
I say hidden, because a lot of the times, victims of violence often don’t look like victims of violence.
And that can lead to the victim not being believed, creating a culture of fear and not coming forward to report it.
All of these aspects can determine the rest of a victim’s life.
In addition, for the economy, the toll of violence against women is also heavy.
EIGE research estimates that Violence against women costs the EU around €289 billion Euro every year – which makes up 80% of the total cost of gender-based violence in the EU.
What we typically see at face value is only the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath is complex and multilayered.
Now, let me be clear, the cost of human life, pain and suffering pain are immeasurable. But adding an economic perspective shows that we are all impacted - those 1 in 3 women who suffer violence, their families and all of us since a lack of attention and inaction also takes a huge economic toll on our economies.
That is why immediate attention, investment and action needs to take effect.
Prevention and response can make a real impact.
Even if all we focus on is increasing the costs towards prevention services, it’ still enough to reduce the economic costs of VAW in our societies.
Imagine how much more effective it would be to put support systems in place.
But right now, the money spent on supporting victims is not enough – in fact it’s almost a disservice to victims to mention the fact that money spent on shelters make up just less than 1% of the cost of gender-based violence. Less than 1%?That is not good enough – not if we want victims to feel supported in what is likely to be the lowest point of their life.
It goes without saying that EU countries need to invest more in activities that prevent violence against women and protect victims -- this is both a moral imperative, as well as savvy economics.
Looking at the economics of violence against women in a slightly different way, I’d like to turn to a crucial component which can exacerbate this phenomenon. And that is women’s lack of economic power.
There is a direct relation between women's access to financial resources – in other words, economic autonomy - and gender equality. Both grow together.
EIGE’s annual Gender Equality Index, which is a benchmark for the EU’s rate of progress, includes a core domain to measure gender equality – and that is money.
In our latest edition of the Index, the gender equality on money has stalled. Even though money is the second highest score of all the indexes this year this year, it’s only moved up marginally since 2019.
That can hardly be considered meaningful change.
What’s interesting to note from our Index, is that in the knowledge domain, women are increasingly getting better educated than men – and yet, structural inequalities still persist between women and men where money is concerned.
But our research has proven that women’s economic empowerment feeds into economic development and can reduce violence against women.
By 2050, improving gender equality would lead to an increase in EU GDP to €3.15 trillion. But this is still a pipedream. We will keep veering off track if we do not end violence against women – both the economic and moral cost is keeping us from moving forward.
Data is a crucial tool to understanding the variables leading to violence against women. We need to know the why behind the how.
And with a contextual understanding, effective prevention measures can be put in place.
This year EIGE will continue to collect data on the economic dimensions of violence against women, through the ongoing FRA-EIGE VAW II survey, which covers eight Member States and complements the Eurostat GBV survey; From the results of the administrative data collection, we will pay close attention to where economic violence sits in the broader gender-based violence phenomenon.
Looking forward down the line, EIGE will further explore this thematic area in a report to support the first semester Presidency in 2024, in Belgium, centering on gender equality and financial independence. This will be ready in the spring of 2024.
We have many plans in our work programme to address this persisting issue.
But, if there is one thing I would like you to remember from everything I have said today, it’s that 1 in 3 women will be a victim of violence in her lifetime.
Alarm bells should be going off.
Does it have to be 1 in 2 for action? I hope we don’t have to get that far.
It is for the health and wealth of our societies and economies that violence against women is stopped, once and for all.
I wish you a thoughtful and productive conference where the next steps are established and then put into practice.