- - -
Safe from Harm

Media center

EU fails to criminalise rape but strengthens prevention measures and support services for survivors

Yesterday, the European Parliament and Member States reached a hard-won agreement on the Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence.

Yesterday, the European Parliament and Member States reached a hard-won agreement on the Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence. IPPF EN welcomes this first ever binding EU legislation on combating violence against women. But we regret that, while the Directive contains positive measures, the final text is incomplete and represents a serious missed opportunity to ensure protection from all forms of gender-based violence for all people. 

It is outrageous and deeply disappointing that lack of political will from national governments, notably France and Germany, has resulted in a final text that does not tackle the scourge of sexual violence, in spite of bold efforts from the European Commission and Parliament. 



European Network


Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Comprehensive Sex Education, Gender equality

Governments’ failure to support criminalisation of rape in the Directive is a betrayal of women, when sexual violence is endemic across the EU, and enjoys widespread impunity, said Camille Butin for IPPF EN.

“Consent-based definitions have proven to guarantee greater access to justice for victims of rape, increasing reporting and prosecution rates. And yet, some Member States blocked this landmark opportunity to better protect women across the EU, going against their obligations under the Istanbul Convention” added Butin. 

It is very positive that the EU institutions reached an agreement on access to support services for survivors of sexual violence. For the first time ever, an EU law will now affirm that Member States shall guarantee victims of sexual violence timely access to healthcare services, including sexual and reproductive healthcare – encompassing emergency contraception, post exposure prophylaxis and abortion care – in accordance with national law. 

With this unprecedented agreement, the EU recognizes that access to essential sexual and reproductive healthcare services is crucial to safeguard victims/survivors’ rights, said Butin.

Crucially, Member States will also have to strengthen their actions to prevent sexual violence, by raising public awareness of the central role of consent in sexual relationships, and of the fact that non-consensual sex is a criminal offence. We would have wished to see mandatory comprehensive sexuality education mentioned as a prevention measure, since it encompasses education on consent but addresses many other key issues, and is provided in schools. 

Finally, we applaud the criminalization of female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and forms of online violence, but condemn the Member States’ failure to criminalise forced sterilization. We welcome the recognition of the need to tackle intersectional discrimination, but regret that the text falls short of mentioning specific groups, such as LBTIQ women, women sex workers, or undocumented migrant women. Member States shamefully failed to ensure safe reporting mechanisms for undocumented migrant women, who could face deportation when reporting violence. 

We call on the EU to use the agreed text as a starting point and strengthen the law in the future. In the meantime, we also call on Member States to go beyond the minimal provisions included in this Directive. 


For media inquiries please contact: 

Cosmina Marian, Comms, Voice and Media Advisor with IPPF EN. 

Email: [email protected] 

Or Camille Butin, Advocacy Advisor with IPPF EN. 

Email: [email protected]