Por Soraya Rodríguez Ramos

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Parliament adopted the first European directive against gender-based violence: a historic step in protecting women

MEP Soraya Rodríguez analyses the first European directive on combatting gender-based violence adopted in Parliament and demands its final approval in the Council

MEP Soraya Rodríguez, Spokesperson for Gender Equality, has welcomed the adoption of the first European directive against gender-based violence in the European Parliament. The plenary of the European Parliament has ratified its position on this directive after months of work and negotiations in the Committees on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and Civil Liberties. 

The European Directive against gender-based violence has been received with satisfaction. This milestone represents a fundamental step forward in upholding the rights of women and girls in Europe. The final agreement on the offences covered by the directive includes key provisions that will strengthen the protection of victims and establish more effective prevention measures. In addition, important progress has been made in including issues such as access to safe and legal abortion, support for orphans of gender-based violence, online violence and a focus on victim protection. 

Below, we take a closer look at the highlights of the final agreement and its impact on the fight against gender-based violence in Europe:

Extension of the offences covered:

In addition to the six crimes proposed by the Commission, the final agreement has succeeded in adding new crimes to the European Directive on combatting gender-based violence. These include sexual assault, female genital mutilation, intersex genital mutilation, forced sterilisation, forced marriage and crimes related to sexual harassment at work. All of them are considered to be acts that can be considered covered by the legal basis of this directive, which includes the sexual exploitation of women and children. 

Protection against cyberbullying:

The final agreement also addresses cyberbullying and cyber stalking, also covering a specific form called cyberflashing. This practice consists of sending unsolicited images of genitals through information and communication technologies with the aim of causing psychological harm. By covering cyberflashing in the article on cyberbullying, the directive seeks to address this form of online gender-based violence that particularly affects women.

This directive will be the first legislation at EU level to address online forms of gender-based violence, as the Istanbul Convention does not address this increasingly common type of violence against women and girls. 

Access to legal and safe abortion:

One of the significant achievements in the final agreement is the inclusion of references to access to legal and safe abortion. These references can be found, for example, in the article establishing the necessary specialised services for victims of sexual violence. Despite the political pressure to limit the access to abortion to national legislation, this restrictive language was eliminated, thus ensuring a wider access to abortion services in cases of rape.

Victims’ support and protection measures:

The final agreement places a strong emphasis on supporting victims of gender-based violence. It includes access to free legal aid, in a language understandable to victims; the use of electronic supervisory measures to ensure the execution of restraining and protection orders, and consideration of the establishment of courts and prosecutors specialised in gender-based violence. These measures will strengthen the capacity of victims to seek justice and obtain the necessary support.

Focus on prevention and education:

This EU Directive also stresses the importance of prevention and education. It calls for age-appropriate sexual and relational education, as well as the promotion of specialised services for women. It also highlights the crucial role of women’s organisations and NGOs in preventing and supporting victims. These aspects are critical to addressing gender-based violence from its roots and fostering a lasting cultural and behavioral change.

Stricter data collection:

Another highlight of the final agreement is the establishment of stricter provisions in data collection. Gathering accurate and detailed information on cases of gender-based violence is essential to understanding the scale of the problem and designing effective policies. More rigorous measures in this area will help to gain a more comprehensive picture of gender-based violence and develop more effective prevention strategies.

The adoption of the first European directive against gender-based violence represents a historic milestone for women and girls in Europe. This directive provides the basis for a stronger and more coordinated approach to the protection of women’s rights and the eradication of gender-based violence in Europe.

Contributions from Soraya Rodríguez and the Renew Europe Group to the Directive

Among Soraya Rodríguez’s key contributions to the directive is the inclusion in the article on support for victims of sexual violence/rape of the access to legal and safe abortion without any limitation in cases of rape, while eliminating wording such as “in line with national legislation” that was trying to limit this right. Other wins have been the inclusion of the use of electronic monitoring of aggressors and telematic control of restraining and protection measures for victims as well as the enforcement of sentences were defended by the Spanish MEP. 

The Liberal MEP has also strengthened the recognition of orphans of gender-based violence in the victim support chapter of the directive. The considerations of setting up courts and prosecutors specialised in gender-based violence in all countries and ensuring access to free legal aid have also been included thanks to her efforts.

The European Parliament’s position on the directive, which was ratified at the July plenary session, is already under negotiation with the Member States and the Commission for its final approval and entry into force.  “We now hope that the Council, the Member States, will respond quickly and will not paralyse this file for so many years as they did with the adoption of the Istanbul Convention,” she said, recalling the six-year blockade of this international agreement by the opposition of the extreme right in the Council. “Poland and Hungary, with their backlash against equality and women’s rights, have contributed the most to block the Istanbul Convention at the Council’s level for six years,” denounced the Liberal MEP. 

“Women and girls suffer a specific type of violence that cannot be allowed in a democratic society, we cannot talk about human rights, the rule of law, when the rights of women and girls are violated and trampled on in our countries,” she added.

For further information

Read: MEPs to condemn latest backsliding on European values in Poland. European Parliament News.

Trilogue on violence against women

Photo Gallery “Trilogue on violence against women”. Mathieu CUGNOT © European Union 2023 – Source : EP.

Soraya Rodríguez Ramos

Mujeres al frente es un espacio de reflexión dirigido por la política y abogada española Soraya Rodríguez Ramos. Desde 2019, es diputada del Parlamento Europeo en la delegación del partido Ciudadanos. Desde su escaño de eurodiputada, desarrolla un intenso trabajo como portavoz en Igualdad de Género y Derechos de la Mujer del grupo Renew Europe, así como miembro del Comité de Derechos Humanos y de la Comisión de Medio Ambiente por su compromiso con el cuidado del planeta y la justicia climática.