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How the EU wants to better protect women from violence

The protection of women from violence is receiving uniform minimum standards in the EU for the first time. The member states finally approved a corresponding law. However, rape is excluded.

Women in the EU should be better protected from violence. The Council of the European Union finally approved the law with which sexual and domestic violence will be punished more harshly across the EU in the future.

Decisive action against these acts of violence is essential to ensure the values ​​and fundamental rights of equality between women and men and non-discrimination, it said in a statement. However, rape is not covered by the directive.

Up to five years in prison possible

The regulations require states, among other things, to criminalize female genital mutilation, forced marriage, stalking and cyber violence – for example, sending intimate images without consent.

Depending on the crime, the perpetrators face prison sentences of at least one to five years. They can be higher if the victim is a minor or there are other aggravating circumstances.

In addition, those affected must have access to sheltered accommodation. In future, Member State authorities will also have to make the public aware that non-consensual sexual acts are considered a criminal offence.

Women's rights activists were hoping for more

The EU Parliament had already approved the compromise text on April 24th. Confirmation by the EU countries in the Council of the European Union was the last necessary step for the regulations. The new EU law will now come into force shortly upon publication in the Official Journal. Member States have three years to transpose the regulations into national law.

There is criticism of the law because it does not cover the crime of rape. The European Parliament and women's rights activists had originally called for such a regulation, according to which every sexual act must be consented to: only “yes means yes”. This already applies in Sweden and Spain, among others: women must expressly consent to sex for it to be considered consensual.

Concerns from Germany and France

However, several countries in the EU blocked this. Germany and France argued that this went beyond EU competences and that the law would therefore be vulnerable in European courts. A corresponding article therefore did not make it into law. More than 100 prominent women had previously written an open letter calling on Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann to give up the blockade.

In Germany, the principle “no means no” has applied since the sexual criminal law was reformed in 2016. Rape only occurs when women clearly refuse sex. Since the reform, they no longer necessarily have to defend themselves physically, but can also express this through words or gestures.

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