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Violence against women: EU will legislate but not include rape in face of controversy

This will be the first directive to combat violence against women, but it will not be comprehensive. Debate has been going on in Brussels for months around the text, which aims, among other things, to unify the legislation and criminal response of the 27 member states to genital mutilation, forced marriage, disclosure of intimate videos and harassment in queues. But the most controversial issue was rape.

After months of debate, the final European negotiating session on the text will take place on Tuesday. “This directive will be a step forward, although it will not be the giant step that we, on the part of parliament and progressive groups, would like to see,” said Swedish MEP Evin Incir (Socialists and Democrats group). negotiators.

The draft, presented by the Commission on March 8, 2022, provides for a definition of rape on the basis of lack of consent in Article 5. The European Parliament and countries such as Belgium, Spain, Greece, Sweden and Italy are on the same line. But a dozen member states, including France, Germany and Hungary, oppose including rape in legislation, saying the EU lacks competence on the matter.

“On the wrong side of history”

French MEP Nathalie Colin-Oesterle (PPE group, Christian Democrats) regrets that this directive has been reduced to a “half-law”. “I find it terrible,” she explains to AFP. “Today, given the restrictive definition of rape in some EU member states, including France, there are only a few successful complaints. We are talking about expanding the field of evidence.”

12 non-governmental organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, recently found it “unacceptable that some member states have persistently failed to respond to the need to combat rape across the EU, hiding behind interpretations of legal limits on EU powers. However, “consent-based determinations have proven to provide better protection and better access to justice” for victims, they argue.

President Emmanuel Macron, who has made fighting violence against women the “great cause” of his five-year term, has been questioned about the blockade by elected officials even within his political family. In Germany, 111 women (feminist activists, artists, journalists, etc.) also recently wrote to Justice Minister Marco Buschmann on this issue.

“Macron, Buschmann and (Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor) Orban are preventing us from passing a rape law on the grounds of lack of consent,” denounced Evin Incir, accusing them of “standing on the wrong side of history.”

The concept of consent is not in all laws

The definition of rape varies across the EU. In France, for example, the law defines this crime as sexual penetration or an oral-genital act committed against a person using violence, coercion, threat or surprise, without explicitly mentioning the concept of non-consent.

For France and Germany, this crime does not have the cross-border dimension necessary to be considered a “European crime” that could lead to European harmonization. These countries believe that there is a risk that the text will be repealed if European justice is approached. This is disputed by the European Parliament and the Commission, which believe that rape may fall under the category of “sexual exploitation of women”, which is part of “European crimes”.

Proponents of a harmonized definition of rape that takes into account the concept of consent also argue that it is consistent with the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women, ratified by the EU.

Faced with no prospect of reaching agreement on including rape in the directive, MEPs proposed that the text should at least contain “a commitment by member states to work towards a culture based on consent through school textbooks and specific information campaigns.” – explains Evin Fig.

Source: Le Parisien

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