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European Parliament Committees support and strengthen EU bill on gender-based violence

IPPF EN welcomes today’s vote on an EU bill to combat Violence Against Women by European Parliament Committees. MEPs backed the proposal and further strengthened protection for women's rights and safety.

IPPF EN welcomes today’s vote on the draft EU Directive to combat Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence by the European Parliament's Committees for Women's Rights and Gender Equality and Justice. MEPs overwhelmingly backed the Commission’s ambitious original proposal by 71 votes to 5 with 7 abstentions. Their move ensures this vital law will go even further in protecting the rights and safety of women, girls and people affected to live free from gender-based violence.

Crucially, MEPs have supported the European Commission's proposal to ensure EU-wide criminalisation of rape with a definition based on the absence of consent.*

"This is a strong signal that the Parliament, as a representative of EU citizens, wants a consent-based definition of rape to be the standard throughout Europe. This is in line with the language of the Istanbul Convention, which is now 15 years old, but was only recently ratified by the EU after years of stalemate," said Camille Butin for IPPF EN.

"Now we strongly urge the EU institutions to adopt ambitious and robust final wording that truly centres the objective of the Directive, which is to help combat violence against women and uphold gender equality in Europe. In particular, we call on Member States to find the political will to take effective action against rape, after they failed to back a consent-based definition in their recent preliminary position," added Butin.

IPPF EN welcomes MEPs' backing today of the following vital amendments to the original draft Directive:

  • Addition of criminalisation of sexual assault, genital mutilation of intersex people and forced sterilisation. MEPs also backed the criminalisation of female genital mutilation and various forms of online violence.
  • Inclusion of full range of sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortion care, in support services for victims of sexual violence.
  • Robust wording on including comprehensive sexuality and relationship education in gender-based violence prevention measures. This requires EU countries to increase awareness of the concept of consent, promote gender equality and challenge harmful gender stereotypes, particularly working with men and boys.
  • Clear focus on intersectionality in wording on discrimination faced by victims of gender-based violence, including LGBTIQ people.

IPPF EN regrets MEPs’ decision to replace the wording ‘women sex workers’ with ‘women in prostitution’ as sex workers themselves perceive this term as demeaning and linked with criminality. IPPF EN stands with sex workers, and rejects stigmatisation that has devastating consequences for them.

The next step in this legislative process will be for the European Parliament and Council to negotiate on the basis of their preliminary positions in order to reach agreement on the final text of the Directive. 

Media contact : Camille Butin, Advocacy Advisor, [email protected]


*14 EU Member States still have laws with outdated definitions of rape based on use of force or the threat of force by the perpetrator, as opposed to absence of consent by the victim. These laws fail to meet international human rights standards, including the 2008 Istanbul Convention, to which the EU recently acceded. They ignore the realities that many survivors face in the context of rape, overlook the fact that a person can rape without using physical force or violence, and enable significant impunity for perpetrators.



Sexual and Gender-Based Violence