MEPs want EU laws to recognised gender-based violence as a crime

Parliament calls for online and offline gender-based violence to be treated as a “particularly serious crime with a cross-border dimension”

MEPs have adopted a legislative initiative demanding targeted legislation and policies to address all forms of violence and discrimination based on gender – against women and girls, but also against LGBTIQ+ persons – whether offline or online.

MEPs called on the Commission to list gender-based violence as a new area of crime within the Treaty of the European Union, alongside other crimes that need to be combatted on a common basis, such as human, drug, and arms trafficking, computer crime and terrorism.

The report was adopted by 427 votes in favour, 119 against, and 140 abstentions.

The defined area of crime would give legal basis for a victim-centred EU Directive, using the standards of the Istanbul Convention and other international standards, to include prevention measures, including via gender-sensitive and intersectional education programming; measures to end all forms of gender-based violence, including violence against LGBTIQ+ persons; minimum standards for law enforcement; and provisions to ensure that incidents of gender-based violence are taken into account when determining child custody and visitation rights.

MEPs denounced femicide as the most extreme form of gender-based violence against women and girls, and highlight that denying safe and legal abortion care is also a form of gender-based violence.

They pointed to the many adverse personal, social and economic effects of gender-based violence, and that the situation had been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Parliament wants to see some bold action to combat gender-based violence – not only in the form of EU-wide legislation, but also through more investments in women’s shelters, in law enforcement and in feminist education,” said co-rapporteur Malin Bjork, of the group of the Left.

“The report also recognises that sexual and reproductive rights such as abortion rights are crucial, and that not only women but also LGBTI people can be victims of gender-based violence, as this type of violence is based on gender inequalities and patriarchal stereotypes.”

Co-rapporteur Diana Riba i Giner (Greens) added that MEPs had underlined the need for more and better tools to combat gender-based violence. “We therefore call for common legal definitions, standards and minimum criminal penalties throughout the EU. It is time to act to include gender-based violence in the list of EU crimes, and to present a holistic and inclusive Directive to fight what is one of the most serious and persistent human rights violations in human history.”

One third of women in the EU have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Around 50 women lose their lives to domestic violence every week, and 75% of women within a professional setting have experienced sexual harassment.

During her second State of the EU address in plenary on Wednesday, Commission President von der Leyen told MEPs that, by the end of the year, the Commission will propose a law to combat violence against women that will include prevention, protection and effective prosecution, online and offline.

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