Begin addressing the increased levels of online bullying women in the public eye receive?
Indeed, women in politics need courage. Women make up less than a third of Parliaments across the EU on average. In Malta, women account for six per cent of senior ministers against 27 per cent in the EU on average. Female politicians still face a lot of sexism and harassment around the world, including in Europe. A recent study by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) showed that four out of five female parliamentarians from 39 countries have been subject to hostile behaviour causing psychological harm or fear and 44 out of 50 said they had received threats of death, rape, beating or abduction during their terms.
Hate-speech online has also affected me. When I started my work as a Commissioner, my Facebook page was the target of large amounts of abusive language and I had to close down the account. What is worrying is that the incitement to violence online can in some cases lead to violence in reality.
As a Commission, we want to address this issue and make sure that everybody can use social networks without fear of harassment. This is why we work together with social media companies to limit hate speech on the internet. We agreed on a code of conduct with Facebook,
Violence against women: this is a very difficult issue as a large proportion of women who have been sexually or physically assaulted tend not to report the fact. On an EU-wide level, what is the Commission’s strategy on tackling this issue?
Ending violence against women is an issue of priority for me. It still concerns all EU countries and people from all social backgrounds. The 2014 survey of the Fundamental Rights Agency shows that 22 per cent of Maltese women have experienced physical violence, sexual violence, or both since the age of 15. Fifty per cent of all women have experienced sexual harassment and 25 per cent have experienced stalking. It is crucial to end gender-based violence in all countries of the European Union, as it has no place in our societies.
I will launch a one-year campaign to combat violence against women at the end of this year, and I will work closely with the Maltese government on this subject during the upcoming Presidency.