[Dublin] Combatting Domestic Abuse and Promoting Women’s Safety in Our Streets

[Dublin] Combatting Domestic Abuse and Promoting Women’s Safety in Our Streets

Introducing the event, Ms. Hannah Deasy, the Chair of Labour Women, thanked the PES Group of the European Committee of the Regions for the campaign #SafePlace4Women  which proposes to regions and cities to commit themselves to improving the security and the wellbeing of women locally through very concrete actions. Ms. Deasy underlined that these concrete actions, taken at local and regional levels, are very necessary. They should be part of our global progressive response to improve women's right in Europe.

After this introduction, Senator Marie Sherlock took the floor to also underline the usefulness of the #SafePlace4Women campaign and thanked the PES Group and Allison Gilliland for the organisation of the event. She underlined that the lack of public safety in our cities for women is increasingly problematic and that the solution cannot be to "police our way for a safer city". She wants to change the way women feel like in city so they can freely and safely cycle, walk and take public transports in our cities.

Besides, she highlighted that safety in our streets is only the emerged part of the problem. Domestic violence is much more prevalent and more than 80% of the women attacked in Dublin knew their aggressors. "We should worry more about the men in our beds than about the men lurking in our cities", she stressed.

For this reason, the problem of domestic violence should be tackled urgently. All the range of public policies should be taken into account when fighting violence against women. Training of policemen is particularly important for instance. She insisted that we should be able, while trying to eliminate domestic violence, to support women currently suffering from this violence. "If we do the right things for these women, we will also fix some problems for other minorities", she said.

Ms. Alison Gilliland introduced the first panel explaining the institutional role of the European Committee of the Regions.

During his intervention, Mr. Joško Klisović, President of the Assembly, City of Zagreb and Member of the European Committee of the Regions recalled that domestic violence is not only a female issue. It is a problem for all the society. As a man himself, he mentioned it is important to react against every difference of salaries, about sexist jokes and comments, also about some proposals of political parties. Every form of inequality, any lack of respect, or any type of violence or intimidation should be combatted.

He explained that, in Croatia, they have adopted a new law about feminicides. Despite the anger of some retrograde men, kneeling to pray in front of the Parliament for "caring and decent" women, society is slowly advancing. In Zagreb, Mr. Joško Klisović explains that they have put in place preventing programs, mainly educational, including in primary schools. Education is indeed paramount. In addition to this preventive approach, they have installed shelters. Also, in order to empower women victim of violence for a sustainable economic life, priority has been given to them in Zagreb to get city apartments.

After him, Ms. Sarah Benson, Women's Aid Chief Executive Officer, explained that Ireland is currently experiencing increasing level of domestic and sexual violence against women. She underlined that it is very positive to try to fix the women's safety problems in our city but she insisted that the most important is to fight domestic violence. "The main threat is at home", she said, "it is a community problem and we have to find community solutions". For this reason, she called to better coordinate public policies. Housing is paramount in this sense, also to raise awareness or to improve training. She proposed a very concrete idea: to create domestic violence paid leave to protect the victims and allow them to escape the threat they experience in their home in the long-term.

According to Ms. Sarah Benson, data is everything. Data shows the correlation of trends (the rise of domestic violence and the increase of pornography content being watched). Finally, she concluded saying that the work towards equality will also have a positive effect on young boys and teenagers. Changing the way we approach masculinity will also allow them to find their real selves.

For Ms. Salome Mbugua, it is important to acknowledge that the city is even more dangerous for women who look different. For her, it is paramount to work on the intersectionality between migrants, gender and gender violence. Another issue is the access to support. It can be challenging, she said: "we need more resources to reach out towards the women". Finally, she underlined that, behind the already very concerning statistics, there is still a lot of under reporting of violence, for instance concerning mutilations.

After this first roundtable, Ms. Sumyrah Khan presented the second roundtable on women's safety in the streets and how to tackle street harassment and to build safer environment and commutes for women in our cities. In this context, Ms. Louise Williams, Broadcaster, Monthly Cycles Group, presented the work of her association to empower women to take public transport and to ride bikes in cities. It is a game changer to improve their ability to move freely. But a lot of work remained to be done, she stressed. For instance, 90% of women cyclists in London have been verbally abused. In Manchester, two third of women running there have been harassed and 90% have been followed!


When asking the audience why women do not cycle, Ms. Louise Williams answered that women have a risk averse behaviour and risk averse perception. There is also a tendency to blame women: " You have a child: you should not cycle anymore. You are on a bike; you should not wear a skirt. To improve the situation, cities can do a lot to develop better and separate cycle lanes. The important thing, she underlined, is to take into account that women just don't go from work to home. Their journey on a bike is more complex: they have to bring children to school; they stop for groceries and navigate through the city by bike. They need to be able to park their bike anywhere. In a word, they need safe infrastructures.

Following this example concerning mobility, Ms. Esme Dunne, Empower the Voice Dublin Director, presented the work of her NGO to raise awareness and improve women safety in public spaces in our cities. Empower the Voice published a form that 133 women filled to report aggressions or misbehaviours. Contrary to what we could think, Ms. Dunne underlined those attacks can occur at any moment: on these 133 reports, 5 attacks or misbehaviours were reported during the day and 12 of the victims were less than 18. Thanks to the survey, 38 Dublin venues have been identified with verbal harassment, submissions of physical harassment, assault or even one rape allegation inside a club. The same kind of statistics are found in the Dublin's streets and the public transports. She explained that very concrete things can be done. In clubs, for instance, a safety officer can be installed.

Ms. Ivana Bacik, Labour Leader, and Ms. Sonja Kovac took the floor to conclude and underline the importance of these discussions. Ms. Kovac reminded the audience that 1 in 3 women in Europe experienced gender violence, at least once in her life. Both agreed that we should change the narrative on the way we describe this violence. We should not speak any more about violence against women but about "male violence". This is a more accurate way to describe the problem – men and their violent behaviour – and to prevent and combat it.


📸 Album of this event: here