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Is the European Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence at risk?

The Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating violence against women and domestic violence, an important document aiming at aligned European States legislations with minimum standards on the subject of VAW and domestic violence has gone through amendments that jeopardize its impact.

By Simona Silvestro. This article is a traslation. Read the original version here. 



In 2021 Turkey decided to withdraw from the “Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence”, also known as “the Istanbul Convention”.


A real failure, given that for the first time a Pre-Adeshion Country backed away from a human rights treaty aimed at protecting women from violence and supporting gender equality through a status book of integrated policies. The effect of the ratification of the Convention was immediately evident: some European countries managed to introduce legislations on rape based on the fundamental principle of consent.


In Europe (and not only), withdraw by Turkey caused harsh reactions and the country was accused of cancelling ten years of gains on women's rights.


Today, in 2024, that same Europe is unable to find an agreement on the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating violence against women and domestic violence which sets common minimum standards for the Union and should be voted on by the European Parliament between March and April.


"The criterion of consensus that is called into question"

The paradox is that it is precisely the criterion of consensus that is called into question. More precisely, the article that determines and punishes the crime of rape as non-consensual sexual intercourse (already contained in the Istanbul Convention) as well as harassment in the workplace and online violence, for which it must be proven that the victim has suffered actual damage, is abolished.


The reasons for the disagreement are many: France and Germany make it a problem of competences, Orban's Hungary has never even signed the Istanbul Convention, other European countries (Sweden, Spain, Belgium and Greece) have such innovative legislation at within them that they do not need further protections for women.


The Directive therefore does not allow rape to become a European crime, referring the individual State to national legislation, with the risk of backsliding on women's fundamental rights.


The risk of a return to the past is real, at a time when the data show us an extremely dramatic situation. In Europe, one in twenty women suffers rape, one in three has been the victim of sexual or psychological violence during her life and, every day, seven women are murdered by their partners or ex partners.

That’s not all. The step that provides for mandatory training for doctors, police forces, magistrates and all those figures called upon to manage the delicate and emergency problems of women victims of violence has also been eliminated.


The risk of a return to the past is real, at a time when the data show us an extremely dramatic situation.

In Europe, one in twenty women suffers rape, one in three has been the victim of sexual or psychological violence during her life and, every day, seven women are murdered by their partners or ex partners.


This shows how it is still necessary to monitor rights that seem acquired for women, to protect the laws achieved and to set new goals. Advanced legislation on violence against women is urgent and cannot be postponed.


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