A total 22 per cent of lesbian women experienced harassment within a year prior to 2019 in Cyprus, showed a Fundamental Rights Agency’s survey.
The FRA’s second LGBTI survey, which included 140,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people, was quoted in the gender equality index that was released by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) on Thursday.
“Harassment is the most widespread form of violence against lesbian women, with 56 per cent experiencing in-person harassment for any reason in the previous 5 years and 11 per cent suffering cyber-harassment over the same time frame,” the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) said.
FRA’s second LGBTI survey found that one in 10 lesbian women (10 per cent) in the EU-27 were physically or sexually attacked in the five years before the survey because of their sexual orientation.
Meanwhile, in the 12 months before the survey, 48 per cent of lesbian women were harassed for any reason and 40 per cent were harassed because of their sexual orientation.
Prevalence rates vary from 52 per cent in Latvia, 50 per cent in Lithuania and 48 per cent in Belgium to 22 per cent in Cyprus and 28 per cent in Malta and Portugal.
The survey also showed that victims choose not to report physical and sexual attacks in fear of homophobia.
Only 16 per cent of lesbian women reported the most recent hate-motivated physical and sexual attack to any organisation, including the police. “This was mostly because of fear of homophobic reaction,” the report said.
EIGE noted that the questionnaire did not use the term ‘harassment’, to avoid varying interpretations and instead, the specific acts of harassment were assessed.
The index also included data from the Fundamental Rights Survey (2021) which provides more recent insights on experiences of physical violence and harassment among women and men.
According to the recent survey, an average of 39 per cent of women in the EU experienced harassment in the five years preceding the survey in 2019 and 28 per cent of women experienced harassment in the preceding 12 months.
For women aged 16 to 29 years, these rates were 61 per cent and 46 per cent for the preceding five years and 12 months, respectively.
Women who self-identify as lesbian, bisexual or ‘other’ are more likely to be affected (57 per cent) as well as women who are not citizens of the countries in which they live (51 per cent), women with disabilities (48 per cent) and women with a tertiary-level education (49 per cent) according to EIGE.
Of the most recent incidents of hate-motivated harassment against this group, the majority, 71 per cent, were perpetrated by men.
In 62 per cent of cases, the perpetrator was unknown to the woman.
According to the same survey, eight per cent of women in the EU-27 experienced physical violence (excluding sexual violence) in the five years before the survey, and five per cent of women experienced physical violence in the preceding 12 months.
However, 13 per cent of women experiencing violence in the preceding five years indicated that it was sexual.
Incidents were mostly perpetrated in a woman’s own home (37 per cent) by a family member or a relative (32 per cent), and, in most cases, by men.
“This confirms the significant role of intimate partner violence or domestic violence in women’s experiences of violence,” EIGE wrote.
At the same time, sexual harassment by strangers in a public setting is experienced disproportionately by women, who, as a result, often report that they avoid certain places and situations for fear of potential assault or harassment, the report said.
“Such worries reduce women’s opportunities for engaging in public life,” EIGE said as most incidents of physical violence and harassment are not reported to the police, particularly when the perpetrator is a family member or a relative.
The survey showed a significant under-reporting of domestic and/or intimate partner violence, saying that only 22 per cent of such incidents are reported.
This finding is supported by FRA’s violence against women survey in 2014 which showed that many women victims of physical and sexual violence contact doctors and health services, rather than the police.
“Data recorded by authorities often underestimates the scope of gender-based violence,” EIGE said, citing pre-existing legal shortcomings in addressing various forms of violence against women.
This includes “not recognising psychological and economic abuse as a type of gender-based violence, or coercion-based rather than consent-based definitions of rape”.
To redress the situation, EIGE developed 13 indicators to help Member States meet the minimum requirements of the victims’ rights directive and the Istanbul Convention, and to guide EU-wide administrative data collection by police and justice sectors on intimate partner violence and rape.
Inequalities heighten the risk of violence against women.