European Parliament approves first-ever EU rules on combating violence against women

In a vote on April 24, the European Parliament adopted, with 522 in favour, 27 against, and 72 abstentions, the first ever EU rules on combating violence against women and domestic violence.

The directive calls for stronger laws against cyberviolence, better assistance for victims, and steps to prevent rape.

The vote was held in the week of the European Parliament’s final plenary sitting ahead of bloc-wide European Parliament elections from June 6 to 9.

The new rules prohibit female genital mutilation and forced marriage and outline particular guidelines for offenses committed online, such as the disclosure of private information and cyberflashing.

The new legislation will include a longer list of aggravating circumstances for offences that carry more severe penalties, such as crimes against public figures, journalists, or human rights defenders.

The list also includes the intention to punish victims based on their gender, sexual orientation, skin colour, religion, social origin, or political beliefs, and the desire to maintain or restore “honour.”

The safety and well-being of victims should be prioritised, including through access to sheltered accommodation.

Healthcare should be made accessible, including sexual and reproductive health services.

EU member states authorities will have enhanced reporting and evidence gathering obligations, and will have to raise public awareness of the fact that non-consensual sex is considered a criminal offence.

Due to the European Parliament’s insistence, the European Commission will report every five years on whether the rules should be revised.

The co-rapporteur from the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, European People’s Party MEP Frances Fitzgerald said: “Today Parliament has taken the first steps to make Europe the first continent in the world to end violence against women.

“This is a wide-ranging piece of legislation that will prevent violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators, thereby ensuring a holistic approach to tackling these heinous crimes. There can be no equality without eradication of violence against women; we must ensure that there can be no impunity for those who commit such crimes,” Fitzgerald said.

The co-rapporteur from the Civil Liberties Committee, Evin Incir of the Socialists and Democrats group, said: “This ground-breaking directive embodies our unwavering commitment to strengthening the rights of women and saving lives.

“As we march forward, let us remember this moment as a first historic step in strengthening women’s rights and illuminating the path towards a future where every woman can live free from fear and oppression. This is a victory for justice and equality across the European Union,” Incir said.

The new rules will come into force 20 days after their publication in the EU Official Journal. EU member states have three years to implement the provisions.

(Photo: Fabrizio Turco)

The Sofia Globe staff

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