Violence against women and girls worldwide: what action is the Netherlands taking?

A world where violence against women and girls is a thing of the past. We’re not there yet, but wouldn’t it be wonderful. We ask Pascalle Grotenhuis, Dutch Ambassador for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, what the Netherlands is doing for women and girls around the world, and why.

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As ambassador in Mozambique, Pascalle Grotenhuis also stood up for the rights of women and girls.

Whether it’s a disparaging remark about women in the workplace or a woman being killed by her partner: violence against women and girls is still widespread. ‘It’s happening everywhere, including the Netherlands,’ says Pascalle. ‘A woman is killed by a partner or ex-partner every eight days in this country. People aren’t always aware of that fact.’

Pascalle has been Ambassador for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality since late 2020. Her job is to ensure these issues are at the top of the international agenda.

Equality is the key word, she says. ‘Women’s rights should not be a matter for women alone.’
‘It’s a fact that diverse teams and organisations perform better. You also see this during international negotiations: when women are at the table too, you get sustainable results,’

Pascalle says. ‘Investing in women and girls is also one of the most effective ways for a country to tackle poverty.’

COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has ended up curbing the rights and freedoms of women and girls worldwide. Everywhere, violence against women and girls increased during the lockdowns. This has been referred to as the ‘shadow pandemic’, for which Pascalle knows the statistics by heart.

‘Every three months of lockdown results in 15 million women around the world becoming victims of domestic and sexual violence. People are also spending more of their time online, and this has led to an increase in cyber violence and online sexual harassment.’

And it doesn’t stop there. In many countries, girls have disappeared off the radar because of school closures and teenage pregnancies are on the rise. Girls are ending up on the streets, in the informal sector.

‘Because of COVID, we’ve lost some of the progress we’d made,’ says Pascalle. ‘And that motivates me to do more.’

Youth Ambassador

The Netherlands is one of the few countries to have a Youth Ambassador for sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and freedom of choice. Youth Ambassador Laura Bas works closely with Pascalle to ensure young women’s voices are heard by Dutch policymakers.

Girls, not brides. Watch the video by Youth Ambassador Laura Bas and Pascalle Grotenhuis, Dutch Ambassador for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality on Facebook.

What does the Netherlands think?

The Netherlands stands up for equal rights for women and girls, all over the world. Preventing and eliminating violence against women is a priority of Dutch human rights policy.

The Netherlands are a party to the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe (CoE) Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence) It’s is the most far-reaching international legal instrument to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence.

Pascalle is quick to point out that the situation of women and girls in the Netherlands is ‘by no means perfect’. There are still large differences in women’s and men’s pay, and women have fewer opportunities on the labour market.

‘We don’t go out into the world in order to lecture others. We make our message stronger by admitting to our own shortcomings, and talking about ways of tackling problems.’

‘Women’s rights are human rights,’ Pascalle concludes. ‘It’s in the Dutch constitution and that’s what we’re working for worldwide.’

What action is the Netherlands taking on violence against women and girls?

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The Dutch embassy in Sri Lanka runs visible campaigns to call attention to the problem of violence against women.