Tag Archives: denmark

‘Smukfest’: Did the Danes find a way to have it all in one festival?

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Have the free-spirited Danes done it? To hold a festival where children run around collecting bottles with a smile during the daytime, and a Danish a rapper lights up a joint on stage without no one doing so much as raising an eyebrow – despite it being illegal in Denmark. And by night the festival is taken over by techno music, luring the crowd into mosh pit madness.

Pandeia presents to you Skanderborg Festival, or Smukefest, held in the middle of Skanderborg’s most beautiful woods; a festival where people can charge their phones, forget them overnight, and still find them laying there the morning after.

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Smukfest is Denmark’s next biggest festival, run completely non-profit by 12,633 volunteers who all work for “fighting against loneliness”, as they state on their website

55 % of the guests are locals from Jylland, but despite being mainly for Danes, Pandeia took a look at this unique event that is undoubtedly the most beautiful festival in Denmark – living up to its name.

Being very well-organized with limited ticket sale, the biggest perk of Smukfest is that you don’t end up spending all your time queuing.

The scenes are arranged in the midst of trees with lights hanging in between, creating a cozy and relaxed atmosphere. ‘Hygge’ is a Danish word that translates very badly to English – the best attempt is to translate it to ‘cozy’ and Skanderborg festival is the definition of cozy.

Despite all the coziness, there are plenty of attractive and exchiting concerts to attend. A vast number of musicians play every year well known names as 50 Cent, Bastille, Skrillex, and Go Go Berlin filled the scenes of Smukfest.

Some guests don’t book their tickets just for the music, but rather for the purpose of enjoying the atmosphere and having a great time with other guests. Plenty of guests come year after year, and even whole families attend together.

banner?Politeness and comfort dominated the ambiance; I was never pushed aside by the crowd, kid you not. Only that one time I thought it would be a good idea to stand upfront for Skrillex performance, an electronic dance DJ, in the middle of a mosh pit, that I was pushed back and forth. Needless to say it was a bad idea; I am not even 160 cm tall. The sweat and jumping didn’t seem to bother the teenagers who enjoyed it to the fullest, well along with my grown up friend who dived in too.

If the mosh pit wasn’t for you,during the daytime you could listen to more relaxed music from various Nordic countries, some of Denmark’s biggest rappers and pop bands, as well as some international ones too.

Nevertheless, Smukfest was not perfect. 50 cent, the biggest name performing at the festival, was a complete disappointment for many of the guests. “He just wasn’t good” was a common reply when asked about his concerts.

He entered the big stage with a golden chain and cab, looking ready to entertain, but ended up disappointing the crowd with a dull and powerless performance.

20140806_201647It seemed for a while like the concerts would turn out alright when he sang the lyrics “I am a V.I.P.,” sprayed water over the audience, and the performance slowly picked up the pace. When he finally sang “Candy Shop”, the crowd leaped in excitement.

It did the trick and worked up the crowd for a while.

The end was a mystery to all, as 50 Cent left the stage his band kept on playing well-known songs from different bands, like “We will rock you” with Queen, and as the crowd was left to party on its own (which was not a problem to it), it was left to wonder if 50 Cent had gone to bed.

Considering a bad choice of one artist, or perhaps just a bad night for 50 Cent, was the only downside of the festival that offered this variety of music, you should not miss out on this festival if you plan to visit Denmark in 2015.

Do we recommend this for non-Danes? Yes for sure, but be prepared to listen to a lot of Danish music – don’t worry you will be glanced away by the magic of the festival, kindness of people and well, let’s face it, the amount of consumed beer; the Danes know how to drink their beer – and become very friendly when with a drink in hand.

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If you have an unfulfilled craving to experience a Danish festival – that has it all – without exhausting yourself with queues or impoliteness, Smukfest is the one to go to. Families, young people, children, teenagers, too drunk and yet friendly people – it has it all. The Danes certainly managed to host a festival that has it all.

Take look here at the website for music for next year.

 

 

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How one of Iceland’s most prominent singers went from singing alone to singing worldwide in only a couple of weeks

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Pandeia got a moment of Ásgeir’s Trausti busy schedule after he finished playing at Skanderborg Festival (Smukfest) in Denmark, and right before he flew off to his home in Iceland.

Despite Ásgeir Trausti’s young age of 21 and his relatively short career, he is one of Iceland’s biggest stars at the moment and is a long way into his international career. This summer he made a quick stop at Skanderborg’s lively music festival located in Denmark to play his music.

What is unusual about this young singer is that his father writes some of his lyrics and he did not really sing in public before he became famous.

His sudden and unexpected popularity came about when Ásgeir met a record producer in Iceland and for fun they decided to record a few of his songs. Ásgeir said: “One day I simply met Kiddi, our soundman, and gave him some songs I had recorded and we started playing around with the recording. And a few weeks later we sent a couple of them to the radio, and that is how the ball started rolling”.

“It just exploded in 2012 and I decided to dedicate myself to it for some time.”

Ásgeir never planned to play to more than for himself. “I never really planned to play music in front of other people or become a musician at all, I only wrote for myself. I have been playing since I was 6-year old but I never thought I would take my music further, publish it or play it in front of other people.”

Before Ásgeir knew it, he was well-known in Iceland, held an international record deal in his hand and was starting to prepare himself to leave Iceland to tour around the world. He describes his doubts and feelings on how he was not (in any way) ready for this journey:

“I had never actually sung in front of people before, and therefore I had absolutely no experience. So I jumped into the deep end with this without being ready for it at all. I knew it would be very difficult for the first few months, the first years – it still is difficult.”

Today his band has become well-known in the Nordic countries, Europe, Japan and Australia, and is making a break into the American market. “It is at the starting stage in the U.S.,” said Ásgeir modestly, despite having had two successful tours and a newly published record there.

He emphasises this is still all very new to him, “it takes time to learn and get into the whole thing and it is still all very new to me: even though we have now played more than 300 concerts I am still getting used to the whole idea.”

Ásgeir mentions that he is very self-critical on his performance on stage and he has a hard time feeling satisfied with his performance; he describes feeling nervous before entering stage every time. “I used to think that having a glass of red wine before going on stage would fix my nerves, but somehow it did not do the trick so now I result in having a cup of tea before going on stage with my buddies and having a chat with them.”

Despite Ásgeir’s stage fright his focus is still on his music and the crowds experience for every concert. It is important to stay focused he said: “it is important for you to find your place before going to stage, it is a mindset you need to get into.”

He smiled and added: “I have seen such progress since we first started: it is all going better now, I knew it would happen at some point.”

Previously their music was only written in Icelandic, but the band started translating their lyrics into English 2 years ago. “The main reason was that I was going abroad and wanted to reach to as many people as possible. It made more sense that it would be on a language that everybody understood,” said Ásgeir.

His band was not at all sure of how the feedback for translating into English would be at the start:

“There are a lot of people who like the songs in Icelandic. I was not sure myself when we started. I honestly had no idea how this worked: if it mattered if we sang in Icelandic or English at all. So we had to take a chance with this and simply try it in English”.

“But it has definitely been beneficial to do so, there are certain countries who only know our music today in English.” he adds.

Most of the Nordic countries still play his music in Icelandic, apparently making Trausti a little happy as he smiled and added “I think it is great that they play it in Icelandic.”

“It felt very weird for the first weeks to sing my songs in English, but today I’m used to it,” Ásgeir describes.

Recently Ásgeir started writing his songs in English, saying he is tired of translating. It should not concern the audience who prefer the Icelandic lyrics as he has not stopped writing in his own language.

Regarding making new music there is not a set plan to make it  at the moment said Ásgeir. “It is rather hard to write music while we are touring, the only free time we have  is spent sitting in a bus, so whenever I get home I try to have time to go to the studio and record some new music.”

About the start in Iceland, Ásgeir mentions the band had to go through a bit of transition cutting down members before touring abroad: “we had a whole brass band on stage with us along with seven band members. In Iceland it is not expensive to tour in so we could do whatever we wanted there.”

They changed the band’s structure without having any problems in only a couple of weeks before leaving, almost everybody in the band are guitar players who can play almost any other instrument, which made it easier.

Obviously the band has become very close touring together: “it is like family, it is an annoyingly tight group we have here,” said Trausti. With all his focus placed on the music he says that it only makes their music better to spend so much time together.

Despite Ásgeir’s short time in the spotlight, he has caught well-deserved attention worldwide.  Still, with his feet on the ground, modesty and determination to get even further,  it will certainly be exciting to follow up on him work in the future.

With  all the variety of music Skanderborg festival has to offer, Trausti certainly fit in  the goal of making it “Smukfestival” – the prettiest festival in Denmark.

Written by Svanlaug Árnadóttir

Bringing Sexism Back!

Paul L dineen

Paul L dineen

Katherine Dunn wrote about sexism in Denmark for her weekly column ‘Klaphat‘, the Klaphat Dispatch is a column about Danish society published at JutlandStation.

Ah – to be a woman in Denmark!

Welcome to the land of the blonde (only sometimes!), the beautiful (always!), and the highly educated/statistically safe/politically represented/maternity-leave endowed women!

It’s a magical place, after all, a country where XX-chromosomes can be found both in the head office at Christiansborg, and nude, on a billboard, advocating for increased youth internship placements using only a coy smile and a sexually aggressive tag line.

Wait – what? 

HK's advertise "I am seeking "

HK’s advertisement: “I am seeking an internship “

 This week, the youth branch of a Danish union called HK was caught in a minor furor over a series of ads made by their youth  department advocating more youth internship placements. 

After all, education, and its link to suitable employment are  serious  topics, for serious people – and in tertiary education in this country, the majority of these people are women.

 However, in the latest edition of “Tone Deaf Advertising 101″, the ad featured a naked young woman (and a man!) holding  placards that read, “Take me – It’s easier than you think”

 Of course, for purposes of gender equality, let’s remember there was a naked gentleman as well. But in news reports, the  poor dude’s nudity was left largely un-contemplated, while the female model’s name, age, occupation and personal comments  had the focus. She said the ads were created to make a “little splash in the duck pond”, but nonetheless, called the uproar “old-  fashioned”, which is surely the nudie-ad version of having your cake and eating it too. (The union has since pulled the ad.)

(Alternate PR suggestion: “we are surprised that our innocent linking of sex and youth employment created a stir, as we now believe that had we asked the model to be straddling her master’s diploma instead, we would have sent a far more effective message.”)

To check that my queasy feelings had cultural validity, I asked my friend Minna Julia Kolte, who recently wrote a column on young people and unemployment for Politiken. Coincidentally, she’s also a volunteer writer for Danmarks Kvindesamfund – the Danish Women’s Society – the oldest association of its kind in the world.

“It is a very dangerous signal to connect sexuality with employment challenges. I would say that it potentially makes an already vulnerable group even more vulnerable,” she said. “In a hard-strapped economy, where we’re all encouraged to do “whatever” to get any kind of paid – or more likely unpaid – job, I am very sorry to see the union using nudity to “sell” their members.”

She also pointed out that the traditional link to women’s bodies and getting paid is, well – let’s just say it’s among the oldest tricks in the book.

If you find yourself yawning at the fact that a woman’s body was used to sell something – an internship, a tube of toothpaste, a deluxe riding lawn mower with double-wide seats, what’s the difference? – join the club. 

If you grew up in a Western country, you’re probably beyond noticing that your local high street is basically wallpapered in close-ups of 13-year-old models’ inner thighs.

But wait, this isn’t just one girl holding a placard in front of her money-fuelling mammaries!

Let’s review the recent evidence: the same day, an ad was okayed of a bikini-clad woman on the side of a cleaning van, alongside a catchy slogan about her lack of cleaning abilities.

Last month, a minor controversy over the uniform for a burger chain called ‘Hot Buns’, in which the (allegedly all-female) waiting staff are required to wear only tank tops and hot pants.

So, while the rest of the world is looking to Denmark, a country which is consistently posted near the top of every global gender equality index available (in this index, the country is eighth), the Danes have decided to import a bottom-heavy version of Hooters. (This is a notoriously trashy American restaurant which will henceforth be known as “Hot Buns”, for boobs.)

Other days, other stories: a private clinic sends a naked, surgically enhanced woman (with yet another placard over her lady-parts) down the main shopping street in Copenhagen for an ad, complete with photo-snapping tourists and the requisite gawking construction workers.

Last June, DR even launched a self-titled show starring the former jazz-musician Blachman, in which he and a male host reminisced that women’s bodies had been un-discussed for too long – on which planet, but sure – and brought a naked, silent woman into the studio for each episode. (Word was out on whether this was sexist or just kind of lame.)

To be fair, in Denmark, nudity is not a huge deal – a nipple here, a butt cheek there, what’s the scandal? I even have a token of this on my bulletin board at home: a postcard from a cover of the 1970s classic “Kvinde Kend Din Krop” (Women Know Your Body), a happy-hygiene manual featuring naked, healthy female bodies. Bodies that are shilling good health and self-knowledge – not hamburgers, or fake boobs, or employment opportunities. It’s a book about women’s bodies, not just wallpapered with them. (The book is still a classic, and in fact, a play based on the book is currently performing in Copenhagen.)

This is the Denmark I love: the Denmark that bears it all because, hey, bodies are great, and they’re also not a big deal (and when it’ summer, it’s only going to last five weeks, so screw clothes!)

Detractors may say that Denmark has a sense of humour, high gender-equality ratings, and free-lovin’ ladies who can do what they will. All of this is true, but it doesn’t make a stupid ad funny, and it definitely doesn’t stop it from being a tasteless cliché.

In Denmark, maybe a 19 year old girl asking employers to “take her” on a billboard is just a tacky ad, and maybe a woman walking naked through a main shopping street lined with gawkers is just a low publicity stunt, made for those glorious days when it feels like sexism could use a lazy comeback.

But there are 128 countries below Denmark on that one – incomplete – index alone. One hundred and twenty eight countries (including my own), which look to Denmark as a model of how relatively safe, easy, empowering and fun it can feel to be a woman.

So come on, Denmark, show us how it’s done.

 By Katherine Dunn, JutlandStation.

The discovery journey of DiscoverCity

DiscoverCity Student Insight Workshop on April 5th. (Photo: Juraj Pal for the Jutland Station)

DiscoverCity Student Insight Workshop on April 5th. (Photo: Juraj Pal for the Jutland Station)

Based on the idea of creating an online platform “by students and for students”, two Slovak students are on their way to make an interactive visual guide to help newcomers to know the local scene in Århus City, Denmark. They will share with us their advises for students on starting their own business. 

“We don’t know where to take a nice girl for a coffee, or where to have a drink with friends. We still don’t know the city even we’ve lived in Aarhus for quite a while already.” The co-founders of DiscoverCity,  20-year-old Slovak students Jozef Simo and Juraj Pal went through some difficulty of moving to a new country that every international student could encounter: to know the local scene.

By students, for students

Both of them believe all the answers to the above questions should be just “one click away”. Based on this idea, the business major sophomore Juraj and the design major freshman Jozef are on their way to establish DiscoverCity—an interactive and visual online platform for students to find all the necessary information and unexplored spots in their city.

“We invite all the other students to co-create the environment around them by letting them share their discoveries with friends–from the best places to have a cup of coffee to the hidden spots to go for a walk or study.” Juraj told Jutland Station, “We want to make DiscoverCity with students, not just for them.”

However, the discovery journey of DiscoverCity is not alone “with just students”. Partnering up with the Aarhus Kommune, Aarhus University and Youth Goodwill Ambassadors of Denmark programme (Copenhagen Capacity), they created a foundation that allows DiscoverCity to expand its reach and benefit from partner strengths and networks. “We pitched our business idea to Aarhus Kommune, and even though we are just students, they treated us as business partners.” Juraj recalled.

Start-up tips for newbie

When asked if there are any tips for students who would like to run their own business, Jozef and Juraj said they don’t want to call it tips, because they have simply just started the journey, but they would like to share something they think is important for starting business.

1.Does it solve a real problem?

Building a product can be easy. But does it solve a real problem? The two founders emphasized the reason they are making DiscoverCity is to solve their own problems of being new in a city without any knowledge about it.

“Not only us, there are also other students sharing the same problems, especially the newcomers.” said Jozef. Therefore, the two young men believe the work will deliver value to themselves and others, which is also why they enjoy the whole process.

2. Evaluate your product ASAP

Jozef thinks the key is to evaluate the product in the real world, and evaluate it as soon as possible. In order to improve their web design and functions, Jozef and Juraj asked different people for comments and organized workshops to get the honest and first-hand feedback from students. Jozef also recommended a “startup Bible” of his, called the Lean Startup, by Eric Ries.

The DiscoverCity team has never been so busy and so excited, since they are about to launch their startup during the Internet Week Denmark on April 30th in Aarhus.

Check out this fantastic innovation, and support them on their webpage or by liking them on Facebook.

Discovery website

Discover City’s website

 

Written by Sherry Yan Shi on JutlandStation

Crossing the lines of Danish humour

Danish law students have been criticized for a controversial party poster.

Danish law students have been criticized for a controversial party poster.

The law student organisation at the University of Copenhagen has been criticised for a party poster, which was said to be crossing a line. The poster for the theme party caused so much of a stir on social media that the organisation had to remove it and give an official apology. But why did the poster provoke so much that it had to be removed? Ida Nordland takes a look at an example of the peculiar phenomenon; Danish humour.

The poster shows a picture of high-class lawyer Harvey Spector, one of the main characters of the American television series, Suits. Spread across Harvey Spector’s picture are the words “Are you the creditor?” Underneath is a picture of an actual homeless person begging in the streets of Copenhagen, accompanied by the words “…or are you the debtor?”

The guests of the theme party were then left with the choice of attending the party dressed up in suits as businessmen or as a homeless, derelict person.

“Douchebags”

The poster caused heated debate on Facebook. Among the critics is the Danish comedian Lasse Rimmer who shared the poster with a scornful comment about law students, who he called “self impressed douchebags”.

Other debaters defended the poster and pointed out the right to make politically incorrect jokes, as this is a deeply rooted part of Danish humour. Some argued that people were being overly sensitive about the poster.

The president of “Juridisk Diskussionsklub”, the organisation who made the poster, says to the Danish newspaper Metroexpress that they never intended to cause a fuss and in retrospect are aware of the offensive nature of the poster.

Why so much fuss?

Danes are known to be considerably thick-skinned when it comes to joking, so why then was this poster found to cross the invisible line of humour? Danish humour is characterised by using a considerable amount of irony. As explained by integration expert Mehmet Yüksekkaya to Danish Newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad, Danes are proud to say that it is possible to make fun of everything and everyone, from politicians to the Danish Queen – you can even joke about religion.

Danish politician Naser Khader has said in lectures on Danish humour that the bluntness of Danish humor can be traced to a scepticism of everything authoritarian. The lack of respect for authorities also mean that literally nothing is “holy” in Denmark. Everyone has to tolerate jokes to a certain limit.

The most famous example of misunderstood “Danish humour” is the “Mohammed Cartoon” incident, which caused a crisis for Denmark a couple of years ago. The cartoons lead to fury in the Middle East, including protests, burnings of the Danish flag and boycotts on importing of Danish goods.

Another well-known example of Danish humour gone wrong, was when Danish movie director Lars Von Trier made a joke about Nazis, at a press conference in Cannes in 2011. It got so much negative press that Trier has given himself a restraining order against talking to the press, which means that he has refrained from giving any interview since, even in relation to his new movie “Nymphomaniac”.

Danish movie director has muzzled himself after several unfortunate misunderstandings.

Danish movie director has muzzled himself after several unfortunate misunderstandings.

 Law students with an image-problem

The critical comments on Facebook quickly reveal that largely the reason for the strong reactions to the homeless-poster is the negative perception of law students. People are provoked by the fact that the joke originates from people who are believed to be rich, greedy and snobbish.

Common prejudices about law students are that they lack empathy and only care about money and designer clothes. They are therefore in no position to make fun of homeless people. The critics feel that their negative prejudices about law students have been affirmed by the poster.

Class society as one of the major taboos

Another contributing factor might be that one of the only taboos in a relatively equal society as Denmark is making jokes about class difference.

Former minister of Social Affairs Eva Kjer Hansen got into trouble after making statements about inequality, in a much-debated interview in the  Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten in 2005.

She stated that, in her opinion, inequality in Denmark should not be feared, because it might create certain dynamics, and that it might be time for a revision of the thought that everyone should be “equal”. Her opinions on inequality caused so much fury among the opposition, that they have stuck to her reputation, even though she ended up retracting her statements. Ever since then it has been demanding to get a right wing politician to make statements about inequality, because they are simply unwilling to utter the word.

It might be the combination of addressing the Danish taboo of inequality while making fun of the less fortunate, that makes the poster offensive to many Danes. Presumably the line is drawn at “kicking someone who is already down”.

However, would the reactions have been different if a student organisation at the Police Academy had made a poster with an invitation to a party with a ‘Police and burglar’ theme? The question becomes whether Danish humour should be protected, or if Danes should simply accept that there are some groups in society you are not allowed to make fun of.

What do you think? Was the poster out of line or a harmless joke?

Words: Ida Nordland

Photo: Facebook/Screenshot, Flickr: canburak.

Equality or discrimination?

Flickr: HBarrison

The University of Copenhagen wants to attract more female applicants to research positions. A gender action plan has been set in motion, and is to be implemented by the end of 2014. Tinuke Maria Iyore investigates what Danish student media are writing about the plan.  

COPENHAGEN UNIVERSITY HAS presented a new action plan for gender balance. One of the proposals is that both genders have to be represented in the applicants for research positions.

The proposal has received a lot of attention in Danish media and was recently up for debate at a Copenhagen University board meeting, where several board members expressed their concern about this requirement. Certain members of the Danish Parliament have even called the proposal discriminating.

However a close look at the pile of applications shows that the university might be facing an even bigger problem. The pile is simply too small.

Gender vs. Qualifications

According to the rector of Copenhagen University’s Ralf Hemmingsen, the proposal is not gender-discriminating. “We’re testing the proposal, because we find that there are too few female professors. I don’t think it is discriminating to make sure that we have at least one female and one male applicant.

“I would like to emphasize that qualifications remain the determining factor,” he says to the Danish newspaper Berlingske.

At the most recent board meeting, members agreed that the main goal of the action plan should be to attract more qualified applicants. Some board members believed emphasis should be put solely on qualifications, while others thought that the main focus should be attracting more qualified female applicants, due to the notion that this minority within academia holds a great deal of talent.

Danish Equality Laws

The minister for gender equality, Manu Sareen of the Social Liberal Party, welcomes the proposal. “I think it is important that the universities work towards a more equal gender composition. It’s about making the most of all talents”, he says to Berlingske.

He also states that it is equally important that the university stays within the Danish equality laws. The University of Copenhagen has previously obtained a waiver from this law with their 2008 action plan; ‘Diversity – more women in management’.

Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl, who is Research Spokesman for the Danish People’s Party, is sceptical of the proposal. He calls it  “very discriminating” and thinks it diverts attention from simply hiring the most qualified applicant.

The Bigger Problem

The lack of applicants seems to be a problem that goes beyond gender. The board of Copenhagen University is concerned that every third research position receives only one application – thus granting no certainty that the most qualified researcher is actually the one who gets the job.

This might actually pose a larger problem than the lack of female applicants. “The universities should concentrate on attracting highly skilled employees. Not by making special proposals for women, but by creating a more attractive work environment, so more qualified applicants – both men and women – apply for the university’s research positions,” says Merete Riisager, spokeswoman on gender equality for the Liberal Alliance party, to Berlingske.

– – –

Do you think the University of Copenhagen is engaging in positive discrimination?  Is this an appropriate response to uneven employment figures?  Where should the university’s priorities lie regarding top reseach jobs?  Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Photo credit: HBarrison [Flickr]

Based on the following articles from Universitetsavisen:

 

http://universitetsavisen.dk/politik/rektor-ingen-diskrimination-her

 

http://universitetsavisen.dk/politik/konsdebat-i-bestyrelsen-kun-en-ansoger-til-hver-tredje-forskerstilling-er-kaempe-problem

Violence against Women is a hidden EU problem

European Parliament

European Parliament

A shocking report from the EU has laid out the scale of the problem of violence against women in its member countries. As Zuzana Brezinova examines, the numbers reported are only half of the story. 

“About one third of women in the EU have experienced physical or sexual abuse since the age of 15, which corresponds to 62 million women in total” says the latest report released by the European Union´s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on Wednesday 5 March.

The FRA report, the first of its kind at the EU level, could become a turning point in European legislation wherein legally binding directives addressing violence against women, either physical or sexual, are practically absent. The results of the survey, however striking as they are, reveal the real extent and severity of the problem within the EU-28 and overthrow the stereotypical mindsets of Europeans influenced by the media coverage of the issue who have long considered violence against women as confined to the Middle Eastern or developing societies.

“Violence against women, and specifically gender-based violence that disproportionately affects women, is an extensive human rights abuse that the EU cannot afford to overlook. What emerges is a picture of extensive abuse that affects many women’s lives, but is systematically under-reported to the authorities,” explained Morten Kjaerum director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.

“This report presents the first results from the most comprehensive survey to date at the level of the EU on women’s diverse experiences of violence. It is hoped that the report’s findings are taken up by those women and men who can advocate and initiate change to address violence against women,” added Kjaerum in his foreword to the survey.

From the 42,000 women aged 18-74 years interviewed in the 28 EU countries (1,500 women per member state on average) an estimated 13 million have experienced physical violence in the course of the 12 months before the survey interviews, which corresponds to 7 % of all women within the indicated age group. Approximately 2 % of EU women, which is about 3.7 million in real figures, have been victims of sexual assault. One in twenty has been raped since the age of 15 and at least 18 % of all women have experience stalking. About 21 million women reported an experience of some sort of sexual abuse or incident by an adult since the age of 15. Last, but not least, over a half of all women indicated that they avoid certain situations or places for fear of being physically or sexually assaulted compared to far fewer men according to existing surveys on crime victimisation and fear of crime.

The highest number of cases was reported in Denmark (52 %), Finland (47 %) and Sweden (46 %), followed by France and the UK. The lowest incidence of violence against women was registered in Poland (19 %), which is surprising especially in relation to the first triad of Scandinavian countries. All of them are liberal welfare states with strong social democratic parties, praised for their gender equality and emphasis on family values.

Worryingly, all the reported figures are in fact believed to be even higher. According to FRA approximately 67 % of women didn´t report the most serious incidents of domestic violence to the police or a support organisation, within the last 12 months.  Reasons for this silent suffering are varied. In some countries, as the Agency for Fundamental Rights indicates, it is culturally unacceptable to talk about experiences of violence, in others gender equality plays an important role. The abuse of women is more likely to be addressed in countries that promote gender equality, than in more patriarchal societies. Often the women are faced with a difficult choice to either hold their tongues or be expelled from the community.

Existence of legally binding directive is yet another important factor that has to be accounted for in relation to the real extent of the problem. Here the EU could be seen as at the same level as countries like Russia, Lebanon or Saudi Arabia. It was not until 2011 when the Council of Europe proposed what would become the first legally binding document to combat violence against women. The Istanbul Convention, the document´s official title, addresses women’s abuse as a gender-based violence and classifies it as a form of structural violence, which is “even more obvious if we look at the patchy attempts of the police, courts and social services to help women victims,” says the text. The only imperfection it has, is that it has not yet been enacted as the ratification of at least ten member states is needed. Meanwhile in the EU there is a gap in laws which needs to be filled.