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IPPF EN condemns Member States' failure to back EU action against rape

Today the EU Council watered down an EU bill to combat violence against women. In removing the criminalisation of rape from the draft, the Council seriously weakens EU efforts to end gender-based violence.

Today the EU Council agreed a preliminary position on the European Commission’s bold proposal for an EU Directive to Combat Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. IPPF EN deeply regrets that the Council’s General Approach reveals a decision by Member States to cut from the draft law a requirement for all EU countries to criminalise rape using a strong and harmonised definition based on the absence of consent by the victim*. The progressive definition in the European Commission’s proposal was fully aligned with the Istanbul Convention, to which the EU recently acceded after years of stalling by national governments.

"Women, girls and minorities across the EU face widespread sexual violence, and this goes largely unpunished. It is inexcusable that the Council has today failed to find the political will to take effective action against rape. Member States are jeopardising a unique opportunity for the EU to adopt a law that guarantees equal rights for all women and girls to access justice and live safe from sexual violence," says Camille Butin for IPPF EN.

Member States and the European Parliament will need to reach an agreement on the final text of the Directive in the coming months. MEPs are expected to support the European Commission’s proposal to harmonise the criminalisation of rape.



Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

If the EU institutions ultimately follow the Council line and adopt a law on gender-based violence that fails to take robust action against rape, this would be very damaging to the EU’s goals of building a safer and more gender equal Union.

No guarantee of medical care for victims

IPPF EN is also disappointed that today the Council has failed to support provision of comprehensive healthcare for victims of sexual violence. Instead, its General Approach proposes watered down wording on access to medical care.

“Of course access to forensic examination is essential to support victims’ access to justice. But victims of sexual violence have much broader health needs, which the Council’s position largely fails to address. The EU needs to guarantee that they can access comprehensive, essential, and timely healthcare. Otherwise, governments will fail to support women and girls fully and protect them from further harm,” says Butin for IPPF EN.

Stigmatising sex workers

IPPF EN strongly supported the inclusion of ‘women sex workers’ in the European Commission’s proposal, and regrets the Council’s decision to replace the wording with ‘women in prostitution’. Sex workers themselves perceive this term as stigmatizing and demeaning since it denotes a value judgement and has strong connotations with immorality and criminality. IPPF EN stands with sex workers, and rejects stigmatisation that has devastating consequences for them.

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.