European Union and United Nations Launch Spotlight Initiative to End Violence Against Women

European Union Pledges 500 Million Euros Towards Gender Equality Fund

(PRESS RELEASE) This week the European Union and the United Nations kicked off a new, global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls – The Spotlight Initiative.

The Spotlight Initiative was announced at a high-level event at the United Nations, led by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, and the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica.

The Initiative aims to place the elimination of violence against women at the center of efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The European Union is committing 500 million EUR in funding to the Spotlight Initiative.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Gender equality is only attainable if universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights is achieved under the new development agenda.

“We commend the European Union for its longstanding commitment to gender equality and for making this financial pledge towards eradicating discrimination and violence against women.

“We hope the international development community and other multi-lateral donors support the Spotlight Initiative and other meaningful efforts that hold all governments accountable for protecting the human rights of women and girls.”

The Spotlight Initiative will build on and bolster global efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on gender equality (SDG Goal 5). The Spotlight Initiative will deploy targeted, large-scale investments in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Pacific and the Caribbean to address multiple forms of violence against women and girls. These regional efforts will include actions to address femicide, trafficking in human beings and sexual and economic exploitation, sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices, and forms of domestic violence.

Progress under the Millennium Development Goals was uneven: despite an overall reduction, maternal mortality still claims the lives of 800 women and girls each day, with most of these deaths affecting poor and marginalized women in both the global North and South. Robust, transparent, and participatory accountability mechanisms are essential to ensure the protection of all women’s and girls from violence and sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, particularly for marginalized groups who face disproportionate barriers and multiple forms of discrimination in enjoying their human rights.

In July 2017, United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women called on states to take measures in “the areas prevention, protection, prosecution, punishment and redress” to accelerate elimination of gender-based violence against women. The Committee also recognized sexual and reproductive rights abuses as gender-based violence and ill treatment. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights has led some of the most important advances in achieving accountability for reproductive rights worldwide, including how reproductive rights violations amount to torture and ill-treatment.  Forced Out: Mandatory Pregnancy Testing and the Expulsion of Pregnant Students in Tanzanian Schools reports on the vast numbers of young women affected by invasive, mandatory pregnancy testing and subsequent expulsion from school if they are pregnant, as well as the serious human rights implications of the practice.