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Only Yes means Yes! EU law must make it clear that sex without consent is rape

Date

23 Nov 2023

Sections

Global Europe

Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, the Socialists and Democrats urged today in the plenary debate for more concrete actions at an EU level to protect women who continue to be attacked, assaulted, or murdered for the mere fact of being women.

In particular, the Socialists and Democrats are now fighting for an ambitious EU directive with a definition of rape based on the lack of consent, as laid out in the Istanbul Convention. It is the only way to guarantee that all EU countries put into their national law that sex without consent is rape, and that all European women are equally protected.

Unfortunately, EU member states have so far rejected to include the crime of non-consensual sex as rape in the Council’s position. The S&Ds urge them to change their position, and to prove with action, not just words, that they are on the side of women.

Iratxe García, S&D Group leader, said:

“Violence against women does not distinguish between social classes or geographical origin. It occurs in all segments of society, in all countries of the world, and also in Europe, although some try to deny it. One in three women in Europe will suffer some type of violence during their lives, and in the worst case, they will lose their lives.

“Now, we have a historic opportunity to give a voice to all women and survivors that gender-based violence is trying to silence. We finally have on the table a proposal for a first ever EU law devoted to combatting violence against women. However, we cannot have a European directive against gender-based violence that does not include rape, because this is one of the most extreme forms of violence against women. Only yes means yes. Sex without consent is rape.

“Rape must not be tolerated, and must never go unpunished anywhere in the EU.

“Besides, we want gender-based violence to be recognised as an EU crime, so that anyone who abuses on the basis of gender faces full justice. Mrs. Von der Leyen promised us at the beginning of her mandate to come up with a proposal, but what she has presented so far is limited to only hate crimes and is definitely not enough.” 

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

“Future generations should never question if sex without consent is rape. Victims must always feel safe and supported in reporting rape.

“That is why, as Socialists and Democrats, we are determined to take on the fight with the member states, with the objective of having an ambitious directive on gender-based violence before the end of the current legislature. Unfortunately, there is still a big fight ahead of us in negotiations with the Council. It is totally unacceptable that national governments watered down the Commission’s proposal by removing the criminalisation of rape.

“It would be an unforgivable insult to all victims and survivors if minimum rules on the offence of rape are not included in this 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), said: 

“Let’s say it loud and clear: for still a large part of our societies, it’s always women’s fault. If they kill us, it’s our fault; if they beat us, it’s our fault; if they rape us, it’s always our fault. We are the culprits par excellence. We are the ones who provoke - today’s ingrates, yesterday’s witches.

“Now is the time to oppose the absurd myths and gender stereotypes. We need radical action to protect the women of today and tomorrow, and to raise awareness among men who are allies in building a more just society where femicide, violence, and patriarchy will only be a distant memory.

“Obviously, changing laws alone is not enough. The fight against gender-based violence requires a variety of actions: from the full application of the Istanbul Convention, a fight against patriarchal, cultural, social, and economic models, through mandatory sexual and affective education in schools, to fair punishment of the perpetrators.” 

 Note to editors: 

Gender-based violence, sexual violence and domestic violence are the most widespread violations of women’s rights in Europe. These serious human rights violations are crimes that disproportionately affect women. One in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15. One in two women has experienced sexual harassment, and one in 20 European women reported having been raped, according to a 2014 survey done by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.

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