The European Women’s Lobby delivered more than 81,500 signatures in support of a strong EU Law to combat violence against women to Minister of Justice of Spain, Ms Pilar LLOP, Commissioner for Equality, Ms Helena DALLI, MEPs Co-rapporteurs FEMM and LIBE, Ms Frances FITZGERALD (EPP, Ireland) & Ms Evin INCIR (S&D, Sweden).
[18 July 2023, Brussels] - Last week’s Strasbourg Plenary session marked a historic moment for women’s rights: the European Parliament (EP) adopted a strong proposal for a Directive on combating violence against women that recognises that sex without freely given consent is rape (Read here our analysis). The negotiations between the European Parliament, European Commission and Council of the EU (the so-called Trialogue negotiations) started straight away on Thursday 13 July with the first kick off high-level Trialogue meeting.
The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) organised a series of actions last week in Strasbourg to celebrate and support the adoption of the European Parliament resolution and to influence the trialogue process. Through these actions, the EWL called on the three institutions to ensure the highest commitment to this file as the timeframe for the adoption of the Directive is very short and the positions of the Parliament and the Council are far apart, specially when it comes to the articles on sexual violence and rape.
The EWL organised a photo action to mark the adoption of the European Parliament resolution and congratulate the two rapporteurs, MEP Frances Fitzgerald (EPP, Ireland) and MEP Evin Incir (S&D, Sweden), for their achievement. The EWL held a series of bilateral meetings with MEPs. We thank all the MEPs who participated in the action symbolising the extensive cross-party support to this Directive coming from many EU countries (Austria, Croatia, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden).
pictured in the photo album and above: MEP Alexandra Geese, (The Greens, Germany); MEP Birgit Sippel (S&D, Germany); MEP Brando Benifei (S&D, Italy); MEP Carina Ohlsson (S&D, Sweden); MEP Erik Bergkvist (S&D, Sweden); MEP Delara Burkhardt (S&D, Germany); MEP Evelyn Regner (S&D, Austria); MEP Evin Incir (S&D, Sweden); MEP Frances Fitzgerald (EPP, Ireland); MEP Fulvio Martusciello (EPP, Italy); MEP Heléne Fritzon (S&D, Sweden); MEP Irène Tolleret (Renew, France); MEP Lina Gálvez Muñoz (S&D, Spain); MEP Malin Bjork (GUE, Sweden); Maria Noichl (S&D, Germany); MEP Maria Walsh (EPP, Ireland); MEP Milan Brglez (S&D, Slovenia); MEP Predrag Fred Matic (S&D, Croatia); MEP Rosa Estaràs Ferragut (EPP, Spain); MEP Soraya Rodríguez Ramos (Renew, Spain); MEP Sylvie Brunet (Renew, France); MEP Theresa Brielowski, (S&D, Austria); MEP Yana Toom (Renew, Estonia).
"The proposal adopted by the European Parliament on a Directive on combating violence against women is very strong as it enhances the proposal made by the Commission in several ways, reinforcing its gender sensitive perspective to address and combat violence against women”, said Iliana Balabanova, EWL President. “Furthermore, the European Parliament recognises that sexual violence, including rape, is a crime that is at the very core of the violation of women’s fundamental rights, systematically used to silence women across Europe".
The European Women’s Lobby has expressed huge disappointment over the position adopted by the Council of the EU and highly supports the Declaration made by Belgium, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg that regrets the lack of political ambition for the criminalisation of rape. This Declaration reminds that there are solid legal basis in the EU treaties and also similar pieces of legislation already adopted at EU level. Find here our analysis on the decision of the Council.
Iliana Balabanova, EWL President said: “The Council made a disgraceful decision that is absolutely unacceptable to women’s organisations. This decision -that came right after the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention-, is regretable not only because there is enough legal basis for the EU to legislate on this matter, but also because there is an urgent need to combat rape on a common basis, which is clearly not the case at the moment. ”
MEP Fulvio Martusciello (EPP, Italy), MEP Frances Fitzgerald (EPP, Ireland), MEP Maria Walsh (EPP, Ireland)
Frances Fitzgerald (EPP, Ireland), lead MEP for the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, said: "Non-consensual sex, i.e. rape, must be included in any Directive on Violence Against Women. With the rates of violence against women continuing to increase after COVID-19, it would be incomprehensible to women to hear from their governments that rape cannot be included in legislation to combat this horrific phenomenon. Parliament will stand up for women’s rights to be safe anywhere in Europe – we call on the member states to do the same."
Evin Incir (S&D, Sweden), lead MEP for the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee said: “With this historic directive, we are unleashing a powerful force for change. Women’s bodies are not up for grabs, and we refuse to tolerate any violation of their autonomy and dignity. It is time to go from words to action in defence of women and girls across our Union. Our position is clear; the member states must know that there cannot be a directive without paragraphs on consent. Only a yes is a yes!”
MEP Carina Ohlsson (S&D, Sweden); MEP Heléne Fritzon (S&D, Sweden); MEP Evin Incir (S&D, Sweden); MEP Evelyn Regner (S&D, Austria); MEP Theresa Brielowski, (S&D, Austria); MEP Malin Bjork (GUE, Sweden)
Evelyn Regner ( S&D, Austria) Vice-president of the European Parliament said: "A gender based violence directive that does not tackle rape cannot be considered as a gender based violence directive. It does not protect women and girls from gender based violence. We want to see the Council move significantly closer to the Parliament’s position to include rape as a criminal offence in the directive."
Mary Collins, Acting Secretary General of the EWL: "The Council must now listen to the loud voices of citizens,the testimonies of survivors and the calls from women’s organisations all across the EU. Member States must reconsider its outrageous decision: countries like France and Germany (but also Croatia, Estonia, Slovenia, Netherlands, Portugal, etc.) cannot hide under legal excuses. They shall demonstrate now their unbreakable commitment to women’s rights”.
Ms Laura Kaun (EWL Policy & Campaigns Director, MEP Gálvez Muñoz (S&D, Spain); Ms Irene Rosales (EWL Policy & Campaigns Officer)
Delivery of 81,500 signatures for the petition “Make Europe a safe place for all women and girls”
As the trialogue negotiations start, the EWL calls on the three EU Institutions (European Parliament, European Commission and the Council -specially the Spanish Presidency-) to ensure total dedication to this file. Strong leadership is needed to get to a new agreement that recognises the urgency to adopt a common EU approach to end violence against women, including sexual violence and rape, and that protects all victims.
Ahead of the kick-off trilogue meeting, the European Women’s Lobby and WeMove Europe delivered to Ms Helena Dalli, EU Commissioner for Equality, MEP Frances Fitzgerald (EPP, Ireland) and MEP Evin Incir (S&D, Sweden), co-rapporteurs of the EP resolution more than 81,500 signatures received during the petition campaign “Make Europe safe for women and girls” calling to enhance and swiftly adopt an EU Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence.
Ms Laura Kaun (EWL Policy & Campaigns Director, MEP Frances Fitzgerald (EPP, Ireland), Ms Helena Dalli (European Commissioner for Equality), MEP Evin Incir (S&D, Sweden); Ms Irene Rosales (EWL Policy & Campaigns Officer)
The EWL restated our support to the resolution adopted by the European Parliament and called them to be firm on their positions during the negotiation and to ensure total dedication to get a new agreement that recognises the urgency to adopt a common approach to rape that protects all the victims.
Meeting with the Minister of Justice of Spain, Ms Pilar Llop in representation of the Spanish Presidency
After that, the European Women’s Lobby met with Ms Pilar Llop Cuenca, Minister of Justice of Spain, who has flagged the Directive as a top priority of the Spanish Presidency. We delivered to the Minister the 81,500 signatures of people calling for a robust directive that makes Europe a safe place for women and girls. We call on the Spanish Presidency to lead the negotiations for a robust Directive that includes the provisions on rape.
Ms Laura Kaun (EWL Policy & Campaigns Director, Ms Pilar Llop Cuenca, Minister of Justice of Spain; Ms Irene Rosales (EWL Policy & Campaigns Officer)
During our meeting, we highlighted the added value that the Directive can bring to the work of women’s frontline organisations to end violence against women and how the Directive can serve to ensure that the 13 EU Member States that still have forced-based legislations on rape upgrade their definitions to adopt a freely-given consent approach that better protects all victims from secondary victimisation and victim blaming attitudes.
We also explained our request, included in the EP proposal, to appoint an EU Coordinator on ending violence against women and girls (VAWG) that has the political vision to ensure coherence amongst the different pieces of legislation on VAWG at EU level and the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. The Coordinator should also have the mission to ensure that there is a comprehensive legislative framework at EU level that addresses all forms of violence against women and girls, and specially all forms of sexual violence and sexual exploitation (See hereour article on the recent EP INI report on prostitution). The Coordinator should also ensure that a strong structural analysis of the phenomenon of violence against women is kept and to coordinate with women’s organisations.
During our meetings, the EWL reinstated its commitment to foster the swift adoption of the Directive position in the Council, especially when it comes to the articles on rape and sexual violence.
“Our EWL members are mobilised widely contacting political leaders and taking action across Europe to seek a robust Directive that criminalises all forms of sexual and reproductive exploitation of women, including sexual violence and abuse over women’s sexuality, and all forms of online violence against women and girls.”, said Laura Kaun, EWL Policy and Campaigns Director. “The EWL thanks all the political leaders with whom we met during this last week for their commitment to achieve the best possible Directive to end violence against women in the EU”, she added.
Irene Rosales, EWL Policy and Campaigns officer said: “Laws help to change societal attitudes. The EU needs to agree on a strong Directive that sets the vision about the society that we want to see: a society where all forms of sexual violence are eradicated and every single woman’s sexual and body integrity is adequately respected; where women are not considered sexualised objects. We need to provide a legal framework across the EU that fosters the new generations to enjoy safe, egalitarian and mutually pleasurable sex and relationships”.