EU: 1st legislation against violence against women

EU: 1st legislation against violence against women
EU: 1st legislation against violence against women

First European legislation against violence against women

Published today at 2:36 p.m.

EU member states adopted on Tuesday the first European legislation intended to combat violence against women, a text which however excludes rape, for lack of agreement on a common definition.

The directive already received the green light from the European Parliament in April. This formal adoption by the Council of the EU (representing the Twenty-Seven) is the final legislative step.

This text criminalizes at European level female genital mutilation, forced marriage, non-consensual sharing of intimate images and even cyberharassment. It sets minimum sentences ranging from one year to five years in prison, depending on the crime.

Make it easier to report violence

The directive provides for aggravating circumstances – for example when the victim is a child, or a spouse or ex-spouse – which result in heavier penalties.

It also aims to facilitate the reporting of violence to the competent authorities.

“Violence against women and domestic violence are persistent crimes. This law will ensure, at EU level, that perpetrators will be severely punished and that victims will receive all the support they need,” commented Belgian Justice Minister Paul Van Tigchelt, whose country exercises the presidency of the Council of the EU.

The text has been the subject of intense discussions for months, particularly on the question of the legal definition of rape, which differs between EU countries.

The project, as presented in March 2022 by the European Commission, provided in Article 5 for a definition of rape based on the absence of consent. The European Parliament and countries like Belgium, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Sweden were on the same line.

Opposed to the inclusion of rape

But a dozen member states, notably France, Germany and Hungary, were opposed to the inclusion of rape in the legislation, believing that the EU has no competence in the matter and that the text risked to be rejected by European justice in the event of an appeal.

“We would have liked this directive to be a little more ambitious,” admitted the Spanish Minister for Equality, Ana Redondo, on Tuesday, arriving at a meeting in Brussels. However, she considered that this legislation was “a good starting point”.

Member countries will have three years to transpose the directive into their national legislation.


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