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Deal on the EU directive to fight violence against women: just a first step for the S&Ds!


07 Feb 2024


Social Europe & Jobs

Tonight, the negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on the first ever EU law to combat violence against women.  

Although the agreement is not as ambitious as the S&Ds would have wanted, they decided to support it, as it provides concrete progress for victims of gender-based violence. For the first time, the EU will have a legal instrument to combat gender-based cyber violence, like cyberstalking and cyber-flashing. The new directive will make female genital mutilation a criminal offence, punishable across the EU. Forced marriage will also be criminalised at an EU level. In addition, children who have witnessed violence at home will be, in most cases, considered victims of domestic violence.  The directive has a comprehensive approach by focusing on prevention, protection, prosecution and access to justice.

However, The Socialist and Democrats regret that the Council rejected our demand to include the crime of non-consensual sex as rape. Some member states argued that there was no legal basis for that, when in fact what was most lacking was a political will by leaders like French president Macron and minister for justice Buschmann in Germany. 

S&Ds urge member states to bring their rape legislation in line with the Istanbul Convention and will continue to fight for the criminalisation of rape based on the lack of consent at an EU level. This is why we have added a strong review clause in the directive opening up for the Commission to put forward a new legislative proposal on rape after the evaluation. 

As Socialists and Democrats, we are determined to continue the fight until women everywhere in the EU are protected from all forms of gender-based violence. 

Evin Incir, S&D MEP and the European Parliament’s co-chief rapporteur on gender-based violence in the committee on civil liberties (LIBE), said: 

“S&Ds are at the forefront of the battle for a Europe where all women can live free from fear. It is after years of our calls that the European Commission has proposed the first ever European legislation aimed at protecting women from violence. Today, we have taken one step forward, and we can only aim higher from now on - and we will!

“With the new directive, we will have stronger legislation when it comes to forced marriage, female genital mutilation and cyber violence against woman. However, it is outrageous that the alliance formed by two liberals - president of France Macron and German justice minister Buschmann - with the illiberal prime minister of Hungary, Orbán, has prevented the progress on consent-based rape legislation. We did not win this battle but we are definitely not giving up. 

“However, we managed to include in the final agreement provisions on the prevention of rape based on a lack of consent, as well as a strong revision clause opening up for the possibility for the European Commission to put forward a new legislative proposal, hopefully including rape. We will not rest until all EU countries have a consent-based rape legislation.”

Pina Picierno, European Parliament vice-president and the S&D shadow rapporteur on this file for the committee on women’s rights and gender equality (FEMM), added: 

“Every six hour a woman is killed in Europe. This is a social tragedy; a pandemic of men’s violence against women, fuelled by the culture of patriarchy that we are committed to end.  

“The agreed EU directive will first of all increase protection of women living in the five EU member states that have so far refused to ratify the Istanbul Convention.

“However, we were hoping, and we fought, for a more ambitious result, and for a directive that could better protect European women. The clear responsibilities for this lie with the Council. Personally, I am disappointed and unsatisfied.

“The fight is not over. We will not rest until all member states get rid of outdated laws defining rape based on whether physical violence or threat or coercion is involved, because laws guide attitudes and behaviour in society. And we want to leave a society free from rape, and where everyone’s sexual autonomy and bodily integrity are respected and valued.”


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