Original article “25N: gender-based violence continues” from: The Independent (26/11/2022).
One in three women have been victims of gender-based violence in the European Union; one in ten, of sexual violence; and one in twenty has been raped.
This means that, in each of the activities we carry out — from walking through the center of a city to shopping in a supermarket or having a coffee — we always have victims or potential victims of gender violence close by. And while EU data shows this horrific reality, denialism only increases across Europe. So it’s not surprising that being close to a victim also means being close to someone who denies that reality.
There has been an increase of populist and totalitarian speeches against women’s rights in EU and around the world. Women’s bodies become a battlefield in all wars. Ukraine is not an exception. Last June, the Human Rights Monitoring Team of the United Nations High Commissioner reported at least 124 cases of sexual assault on women and girls in this context. This does not happen only in wars: in the EU there are governments that are using women’s body as a combat territory to strengthen their totalitarian ideology.
A clear example is Poland’s criminal legislation that de facto prohibits abortion. Indeed, it is criminal because it is endangering thousands of lives and causing the death of many polish women. Izabela Sjabor, 30, died of septic shock when she was forced to carry her pregnancy to term even after the death of the fetus was certified. The life of the fetus and the legal situation of doctors prevailed over her own live, as if Izabela was an object, a mere incubator. And there is no punishment for European governments that violate the rights of half the population. Although the European Commission initially froze Poland’s recovery funds, 35.4 billion euros were finally unlocked in June.
As the far right leads the anti-gender movement in Europe, the EU fails to live up to defending women’s fundamental rights and freedoms. The EU’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention remains blocked in the Council and there are still six Member States — Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia — that have not yet ratified it. The Commission has also failed to put forward a proposal that considers gender-based violence a Eurocrime based on Article 83 of the Treaties. However, is there any doubt about the cross-border dimension of gender-based violence, which is a fundamental condition for a crime to be considered at a European level? For Teresa Rodriguez’s murderer, a 23-year-old girl from Valladolid, there was no doubt. He traveled to Brussels, where she worked, only to murder her. It is clear that gender-based violence knows no borders.
The proposal for the first European directive to fight against gender-based violence is a major step forward: it can provide us with minimum standards of protection for victims and a common framework against impunity for murders. But, at the same time, it also shows the regulatory standstill in this matter. The lack of consideration of gender-based violence as a eurocrime has caused the directive’s legal basis to be very weak, allowing only six crimes to be covered. Among them, sexual assaults, in particular rape, in which they introduce the fundamental factor of consent, as in the Spanish law of “yes is yes”. There are currently 18 Member States whose regulations require the use of force or threats for a violation to be criminalised.
The Ministry of Equality in Spain has left a very dangerous gap in the transitional implementation of the reform, which could have been avoided
The Ministry of Equality in Spain has left a very dangerous gap in the transitional implementation of an amendment of the current law, which could have been avoided by simply taking into account the reports of the General Council of the Judiciary, the associations of women jurists such as THEMIS and the amendments tabled by different parliamentary groups.
Therefore, this huge mistake is being used fiercely by those who never wanted an amendment on the law. It is vomiting to hear both the arguments of the far-right to obtain political returns and those of the Minister of Equality calling sexists all the judges without recognizing the serious mistake that they committed.
A legal amendment cannot have detrimental effects on victims. If that happens, you should first apologize, and then immediately find the best legal solution for your remedy. It is despicable to seek political advantage through it.
We do not deserve this. The victims and women who have worked together for years, overcoming their differences, do not deserve it. The fight for equality did not begin with the Ministry of Equality, as Irene Montero wants us to believe. It began much earlier, through the effort of numerous and different women who remained united to achieve agreements at a state level so that our bodies are never a battlefield for politics.
Many things are at risk. There should not be space for frivolity and populism. Good sense must be restored to place victims at the centre of equality policies. So that, in his name, we may rescue unity and complicity in the battle against this terrible scourge of our democracies.