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Gender, Violence and Rights of the Child: a focus on Europe

To commemorate the 2014 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and mark the 25th anniversary of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNESCO, together with the French association Adéquations, organized a panel discussion on "Gender, Violence and Rights of the Child".

The discussion was focused on the current situation in Europe to draw attention to the fact that gender-based violence and infringements of the rights of children are still problematic issues for European countries. The discussion also highlighted ways in which existing and new conventions and legislation, for example the Council of Europe’s Convention of the Elimination of Violence against Women (Istanbul Convention) which came into force on 1 August 2014, can be mobilized in support of prevention of violence and advancement of rights.

The discussion was structured into two panels of experts on the following topics: domestic and intimate partner violence and its impacts on the rights of the child; and a gendered perspective on conflict, violence, refugee protection and the rights of the child.

The Conference took place on Tuesday, 25th November 2014, from 9:30 am to 1 pm, at UNESCO Headquarters, Room XI, 7 place de Fontenoy, 75007 Paris.

Click here to discover the detailed programme.

And have a look at the panelists’ presentations:

Presentation by Emilie Jarrett (European Commission)

Presentation by Jurgita Pečiūrienė (European Institute for Gender Equality)

Presentation by Heidi Stoeckl (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

Presentation by Maria Giovanna Manieri (Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants)

The Conference was followed, in the afternoon, by the projection of the Documentary “Le dos de la veuve” by the Cameroonian filmmaker Mary-Noël NIBA. The author of this documentary was present to exchange with the audience on this Cameroonian tradition of succession.

The film screening took place from 2.30 to 4.30 pm, at UNESCO Headquarters, Room XI.

Click here to read the full report of the Conference and film screening.

Violence against women and girls

Violence against women is a grave violation of human rights. Its impact ranges from immediate to long-term multiple physical, sexual and mental consequences, including death. Violence against women also impacts the rights of children. In spite of the many international and regional treaties that protect children's rights, many children face threats and lack opportunities for access to education and health and social care. They are victims of the worst forms of child labour, violence, sexual abuse, diseases, armed conflict and are exposed to discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion.

Still today, many women and girl children are suffering from various kinds of violence. According to WHO’s 2013 global review of available data, 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Eurostat 2012 says 68 % of the victims of trafficking are women and 12 % are girls, and UNHCR Global Trends reports 49% of the refugee population is made up of women in 2013.



Trafficking is often not perceived as a crime by the trafficked women and their families or communities, at least as long as the opportunity of potential social and economic improvement is hoped for by the victims, who are therefore initially compliant. Moreover, it is often believed that trafficking affects only a small portion of impoverished people, often un- or under-educated. This misconception has seriously hindered the ability of organizations and states to combat this issue, sustaining perpetrator immunity and invariably affecting the lives of millions of girls and women.  

In many countries, education, together with awareness raising, becomes a significant factor to fight against trafficking. In this framework, comprehensive and integrated efforts must be put in place that engage in effective dialogue with policy makers in receiving, transit and sending countries through formal education and communication and media. This Conference intends to further explore the links, synergies and opportunities of engaging with these elements simultaneously, based on lessons learnt and research at the European level.


Conflicts, violence, human rights violations but also natural disasters are forcing millions of people to leave their homes and to flee from destruction and persecution. The large majority of today's refugees live in the developing world, which means that they find refuge in countries and among people who already struggle with poverty and hardship. Their survival usually depends on the availability of assistance which is provided by local communities and international organisations. There are over 51 million people in dire need of protection and assistance as a consequence of forced displacement. They include refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and asylum-seekers. Globally, over 33 million people are internally displaced, compared to more than 16 million refugees and over 1 million asylum-seekers.

According to the latest UNHCR data, half of the global refugee population is children, the highest proportion in 10 years. Women and girls represent 49% of the entire refugee population. In many societies, they face specific risks and are less likely than men and boys to have access to their rights, due to their gender roles and position in society. In situations of displacement, these risks – particularly discrimination and sexual and gender-based violence – can be exacerbated. Unaccompanied women and girls, women heads of households and pregnant, disabled or older women may face particular challenges.

Did you know?

  • 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.

  • In the EU, it is estimated that 35 % of women were victims of physical, sexual or psychological violence during their childhood and that more than 1 in 10 women have experienced sexual violence before the age of 15.

  • The practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is thought to have affected 500,000 victims in the EU alone

  • 68 % of the victims of trafficking are women and 12 % are girls.

  •  There are estimated to be 685,000 female refugees in the 47 Council of Europe Member State.

  • 55 % of women were victims of any form of sexual harassment in the past 12 months.

The Director-General's message

 Violence against women is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that encompasses economic, physical, sexual and psychological violence. It occurs in all societies, developed and developing, and in all social classes, and it has devastating consequences on society as a whole. We do not have the right to remain silent.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General 2014

Click here to discover Irina Bokova's message on the occasion of the International day for the elimination of violence against women