"Towards a Future for Europe without violence against women" - Recommendations and Highlights

The panel discussion and debate that was held by Gender Five Plus on the 15th of June 2022, can be summarised as follows:

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DISCUSSION

The main objective of the webinar was to present the content of the Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence proposed by the European Commission on 8th March 2022 and to exchange on its strengths and weaknesses.

All panelists agreed that the proposal was long-awaited: gender equality activists have been demanding EU law in this field for over 30 years and the European Parliament has supported it strongly, although with a broader scope, in several resolutions. The proposal was also acknowledged as a tangible result of the von der Leyen Commission's political guidelines, committing to put forward legislation to combat violence against women.

The Draft directive has been positively welcomed as it bypasses the ratification by the EU (and some of its members) of the 2011 Council of Europe Istanbul Convention, which is the benchmark for international standards in this field.

One of the most debated issues at the webinar has been the draft Directive legal basis. The European Commission based the proposal on Article 82(2) and Article 83(1) TFEU, the same as the Directive 2011/36/CE on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, which intends to complement and reinforce by adding specific rights for women who are victims of violence and domestic violence.

However, Article 83(1) TFEU does not cover all forms of gender-based violence addressed by the Directive. This is the reasons why, for example, no criminalisation of domestic violence or femicide is envisaged: these offences cannot be brought within the terms of the ‘euro-crime’ of sexual exploitation of women and children mentioned in Article 83 TFEU. The Commission has therefore not taken on board the European Parliament’s position to identify gender-based violence as a new area of crime, as this move would imply unanimity by Member States and seriously compromise the adoption of the Directive.

It is expected that both the European Parliament and civil society organizations at large, including the European Women’s Lobby would lobby to include the crime of violence against women as euro-crime.

With regards to content, the EU proposal establishes minimum standards to:

  • Criminalise certain forms of violence against women;

  • Protect victims and improve access to justice;

  • Support victims and ensure coordination between relevant services; and

  • Prevent these types of crime from happening in the first place.

According to the draft Directive, Member States must ensure the criminalization of rape based on the absence of consent, female genital mutilation, non-consensual sharing of intimate or manipulated material, cyber stalking, cyber harassment and cyber incitement to violence or hatred. Most of these behaviors, including rape, fall under the umbrella concept of ‘violence against women’ as defined by the Istanbul Convention.

The protection of victims of any form of gender-based violence against women and domestic violence and access to justice is further addressed by the proposal, which partly relies on existing EU acquis, such as the Victims’ rights Directive and the Directive on European Protection Orders. It also obliges States to adopt guidelines for competent authorities acting in criminal proceedings, which must be child, gender- and trauma-sensitive.

The proposal also introduces specific provisions on specialist support services and support for child victims, thus improving the provisions of the Victims’ Rights Directive. In order to counteract victims’ underreporting, it calls Member States to develop trainings for law enforcement authorities, in particular regarding harmful gender stereotypes. Child-friendly reporting procedures should be also established, when the victim is a child.


On protection and support services, the proposal introduces the approach of a one-stop-shop as well as the obligation for Member States to set up national helplines for victims and ensure their operation under a harmonized EU level number. Shelters are to be made available and accessible to victims indiscriminately, but they have to be seen as a temporary measure as the ultimate goal is that victims of gender based violence return to independent living. The role of equality bodies has been reinforced and they will have the right to act in support or in behalf of victims.

On prevention, the draft Directive requires Member States to address cyber violence in prevention measures, including ‘critical engagement with the digital world’. This aspect is considered as one of the most innovative parts of the draft Directive since cyber violence, or ICT-facilitated violence against women, that have become more common in times of pandemic, are not explicitly included in the Istanbul Convention. ICT-facilitated VAW was brought within the terms of the Istanbul Convention by the recent first GREVIO Recommendation on the digital dimension of VAW.

In terms of coordination and cooperation, the draft Directive requires Member States to have a system for the collection of disaggregated data on violence against women and domestic violence and conduct regular surveys.


RECOMMENDATIONS:


Although the assessment of the proposal is broadly positive, the text of the Directive can be strengthened by ensuring that all forms of violence against women are legislated upon.

The text should also enhance sexual and reproductive rights of victims/survivors of violence. Furthermore forced pregnancy or sterilization, the denial of abortion care and obstetric violence should be also recognized as violence.

Support to children’s of victims of domestic violence is another area where the proposal should be reinforced according to the opinion of all panelists.

GREVIO recommendations on how to investigate and persecute cyber stalking and violence should be used.

In terms of intersectionality, the Directive should address the specific needs of refugee women and disabled women victims of violence.

With regards to funding, the Directive should ensure adequate funding for feminist organizations that offer counselling and shelters. It is reminded the funding for feminist organisations has been drastically reduced in a number of Member States.

Finally, there was a general strong call to continue to fight the anti-gender movement and to continue to advocate for the Directive adoption, as it can be overshadowed by most pressing developments (energy crisis, Russa’s aggression to Ukraine, etc.).



You can watch the full webinar on the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFWWkDqk5_g

Panelists:


European Commission: Lesia Radelicki, Cabinet Commissioner Dalli

European Parliament: MEP Maria Soraya Rodríguez Ramos, Renew Europe Group

Council of Europe: Marceline Naudi, GREVIO Istanbul Convention

European Women’s Lobby: Réka Séfrany: EWL President

Closing words: Agnès Hubert, President G5+


- 54 participants

- Date: 15 June 2022

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