All countries in the EU have criminalised rape but each country has a different definition of what actually constitutes a sexual attack – now a single Europe-wide strategy is needed, writes British MEP
A survey published yesterday looking at the level of sexual crimes against British tourists in the Mediterranean has produced some terrifying results that need to be addressed immediately. The research revealed that British tourists are eight times more likely to be raped on holiday in Mediterranean resorts than at home, according to the study by the European Institute of Studies on Prevention.
The institute examined research into violence, sexual behaviour, drunkenness and drug use, and its survey of 6,502 German and British tourists returning home from Crete, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain found that 1.7 per cent of the 3,713 British tourists had sex against their will. Rape is one of the least reported crimes: some victims say they feel ashamed or embarrassed, and therefore legislators have a duty ensure the right care is in place to support such vulnerable victims who do report the crime.
The statistics are shocking but they tell an important part of the story and indicate why it is so important that we address this crime. In addition to the number of tourists who say they have been a victim, less than 10 per cent of rapes are reported across the European Union and far fewer result in a conviction. Last week on my blog, the Honeyball Buzz, I wrote how "sexual violence against women is a most brutal crime, yet still remains a taboo subject in many countries". I am also concerned that there is no single European-wide strategy that each member state adheres to and, in addition, each national parliament has its own legislation.
While all countries in the EU have criminalised rape, each country has a different definition of what actually constitutes a sexual attack. In some countries the victim is forced to prove physical resistance, while in other countries not all forms of rape are covered. It remains one of the most under-reported crimes. The European Women’s Lobby has done some excellent work to address the issue of sexual violence and lack of reporting across the EU.
Last week I hosted an event at the European Parliament for the EWL in order to launch their latest report, which explores how European countries are tackling this dreadful and under-reported crime. The report provides a European overview and gives a good indication of what the national actions are. It also provides insight into the level of commitment each European country has made to eradicate this kind of violence.
The EWL’s report Barometer on rape 2013 compares legislation and the collection of data across 32 countries with the minimum standards set by the Istanbul Convention on combatting violence against women. Just five of the 32 countries examined have legislation in place which corresponds to the Istanbul Convention definition. While the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have sound legislation, and Ireland, Italy and Turkey meet the minimum standards set, six countries were identified as needing to urgently change their laws. These are Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Serbia and Ukraine.
Concrete policy action at European level to build a Europe free from this form of violence is now required, and this is precisely what the EWL’s report is calling for. A consolidated approach is required, and national legislation in each EU country must, at a minimum, comply with the Council of Europe convention definition of rape.
Mary Honeyball is a British Labour Party MEP and a member of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament