During the last plenary session of the European Parliament on April 24th, a historic milestone was achieved as the first-ever EU Directive on violence against women and domestic violence was adopted, with an overwhelming majority of 522 in favor, 27 against, and 72 abstentions. This directive represents a significant step forward in the fight against gender-based violence, aiming to set minimum standards in EU law to address and prevent these heinous crimes.
The directive introduces comprehensive measures to combat various forms of violence against women and domestic violence. Notably, it prohibits abhorrent practices such as female genital mutilation and forced marriage, while also establishing clear guidelines for addressing online offenses, including the dissemination of private information and cyberflashing. Furthermore, the legislation expands the list of aggravating circumstances for offenses warranting severe penalties, ensuring that crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, or political beliefs are met with appropriate consequences.
We only regret that some Member States refused to include in the directive a common definition of rape based on the absence of consent as it already exist in Spain, Sweden, and in the Istanbul Convention. We trust there will soon be an opportunity to add this essential instrument in the eradication of Violence against Women.

Upon publication in the EU Official Journal, the Directive will come into force twenty days later, providing member states with three years to implement its provisions. However, even before formal implementation at the national level, local governments have been proactive in addressing gender-based violence. Many have launched initiatives aimed at challenging gender stereotypes and providing essential support services to victims. These initiatives include the establishment of women’s shelters equipped with specialized services such as legal aid, counseling, and vocational training, empowering victims toward self-sufficiency. Additionally, round-the-clock helplines staffed by trained personnel offer immediate support and referrals to essential services.
One noteworthy initiative is stop-violence.brussels, a website centralizing information available for victims of gender-based violence in the Brussels-Capital Region (https://stop-violence.brussels/en) This platform serves as a vital resource for individuals seeking assistance and guidance in navigating the complexities of addressing and escaping abusive situations.

In conclusion, the adoption of the EU Directive on violence against women and domestic violence marks a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to combat gender-based violence and promote gender equality across the European Union. Through coordinated action at both the EU and local levels, strides are being made toward creating a safer, more equitable society for all individuals.

 

Valentina Maglietta

 

 

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