Deal on EU law on combating violence against women and domestic violence
The EU Council and the European Parliament have agreed on a first-ever EU law on combating violence against women and domestic violence. The new law sets minimum rules concerning the definition of specific criminal offences and penalties to address this form of violence. It also sets out rights of victims of all forms of violence against women or domestic violence, and provides for their protection.
EU Council under the Belgian Presidency and the European Parliament reached the agreement on the law on violence against women on 6 February. The new law would criminalise the following offences across the EU:
- female genital mutilation
- forced marriage
- non-consensual sharing of intimate images
- cyber stalking
- cyber harassment
- cyber incitement to hatred or violence
Once adopted, the new law will set common rules on the definition of those offences and related penalties.
Protection of victims and safe reporting procedures
The new law will also make it easier for victims of these crimes to access justice and obliges member states to provide an appropriate level of specialised protection and support.
Member states must for instance ensure that victims can report acts of violence against women or domestic violence through accessible and easy-to-use channels, including the possibility of online reporting, and to submit evidence online, at least for cybercrimes.
When children are victims of such wrongdoings, EU countries will have to ensure that they are assisted by professionals trained to work with children. And if the act of violence involves the holder of parental responsibility, reporting must not be conditional upon this person’s consent. In fact, authorities will first have to take measures to protect the safety of the child before that person is informed about the reporting.
Moreover, when a victim of sexual violence or domestic violence makes contact with an authority the risk posed by the offender or suspect must be assessed at the earliest possible stage. On this basis, authorities will need to provide adequate protection measures. These could include emergency barring and restraining or protection orders.
Victims privacy and right to compensation
In order to protect a victim’s privacy and prevent repeat victimisation, the EU member states must also ensure that evidence relating to the victim’s past sexual conduct should only be permitted in criminal proceedings when it is relevant and necessary.
The directive also foresees that victims will have the right to claim full compensation from offenders for damages resulting from the offence of violence against women or domestic violence. Victims should also be able to obtain compensation in the context of criminal proceedings where appropriate.
Helplines and rape crisis centres
According to the agreement, specialised support services, such as rape crisis centres, must be available to victims to offer advice and support, provide information about access to legal counselling, and provide help into finding shelters and medical care.
Member states must furthermore make a national telephone helpline available that victims of violence can reach 24/7, free of charge.
Prevention of rape
The Council presidency and EU Parliament agreed that EU countries must take appropriate actions – such as targeted awareness-raising campaigns – to prevent violence against women and domestic violence. These preventive measures are geared towards increasing awareness and understanding among the general public of the different manifestations and root causes of all forms of violence against women and domestic violence, as well as towards challenging harmful gender stereotypes and promoting gender equality and mutual respect.
To be finalized the agreement will have to be approved by the representatives of EU member states at the Council. The final law is also pending adoption in Council and European Parliament.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most systematic and common human rights violations globally. The directive that the EU Council and European Parliament agreed on will be the first legal instrument, which specifically targets violence against women and domestic violence at EU level.
EU Council press release: Violence against women: Council and European Parliament reach deal on EU law(Link to another website.)