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MEPs call for a directive to combat violence against women

[European Parliament, Brussels, 15 March 2011] Rape and other sexual violence against women should be recognised as a crime
throughout the EU, and its perpetrators prosecuted automatically, said the Women’s
Rights and Gender Equality Committee on Tuesday, in a resolution calling for an EU
directive to combat gender-based violence.

The committee calls for a criminal-law instrument in the form of an EU directive against
gender-based violence. 20-25% of all women in Europe have experienced physical acts of
violence at least once during their adult lives, and more than one-tenth have suffered sexual
violence involving the use of force, notes the resolution.
Women do not have equal protection against male violence across the EU, because the relevant
national laws and policies differ from one Member State to the next. In several Member
States, rape is not treated as a state offence, it adds.

The resolution also notes that in many cases, women fail to lodge complaints against acts
of gender violence, for reasons ranging from economic, social and cultural factors to a lack
of trust in the police and legal system.

Automatic prosecution of sexual violence
Member States should recognise rape and sexual violence against women as a crime, particularly
within marriage and intimate informal relationships and/or where committed by male
relatives, says the resolution. Member States should also ensure that such offences result
in automatic prosecution. Any reference to cultural traditional or religious practices as a mitigating
factor, including so-called "crimes of honour" and female genital mutilation, must be
disregarded, it adds.

Stalking should also be considered as a form of violence against women and be treated by
means of a common legal framework in all Member States, it adds.
Preventing exploitation
The EU and its Member States should also establish laws guaranteeing immigrant women
the right to hold their own passports and residence permits, says the resolution, adding that it
should be made possible to hold a person criminally responsible for taking these documents
away.

Legal aid

MEPs call for minimum standards to ensure that victims have advice from a legal practitioner,
irrespective of their role in the criminal proceedings, and ask that mechanisms be introduced
to facilitate access to free legal aid enabling victims to assert their rights throughout the
Union.

Help for victims

The resolution calls on Member States to develop age-appropriate psychosocial counselling
to help child witnesses of all forms of violence to cope with their traumatic experiences.
MEPs also urge Member States to provide at least one shelter per 10,000 population for
victims of gender-based violence.

Next steps

The resolution, drafted by Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL, SE), was passed in committee
with 27 votes in favour, none against and 2 abstentions. It will be put to a plenary vote on
5 April.

In the chair: Lívia Járóka (EPP, HU)

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Loud and United to end violence against women and girls, European Women’s Lobby Conference, 6 December 2017, Brussels.

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