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EU Commission proposes EU-wide laws to combat violence against women

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 14, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

By Jan Strupczewski

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission proposed on Tuesday European Union-wide rules to fight violence against women, to protect and support victims and to prevent such violence in the first place.

Unveiling its plan on International Women’s Day, the EU’s executive proposed that, across the bloc’s 27 countries, rape would be criminalised, based purely on the lack of consent and irrespective of whether force and threats were used.

It also proposed criminalising female genital mutilation, cyber-stalking, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, cyber-harassment and cyber-incitement to hatred or violence.

According to European Commission data, one in three women in the EU has experienced some form of violence, and while the offences are already crimes in the vast majority of member states, there are gaps in national laws of some countries and legal frameworks differ.

“Too many women and girls suffer from rape, harassment or abuse. There is no place for this in modern Europe,” European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova said.

Half of women in the EU have experienced sexual harassment and one in 20 report having been raped, the EU’s executive said, while online violence is also rising, aimed in particular at women in public life such as journalists and politicians.

Half of young women experience gender-based cyber violence and about a third of women have faced sexual harassment at work.

“Unfortunately, the situation is not getting better fast enough and violence is soaring online. We are proposing for the first time an EU-wide law to combat violence against women. This will offer real tools for victims,” Jourova said.

Under the proposed laws, victims would have the right to claim full compensation from offenders for damages, including the costs of healthcare, support services, lost income, physical and psychological harm.

They should also be able to obtain compensation in the course of criminal proceedings. EU countries would have to provide dedicated services, including rape crisis centres.

Victims at an increased risk of violence, including women fleeing armed conflict, would have to receive support from EU governments. There would have to be national help lines to support victims of violence against women and domestic violence operating seven days a week and free of charge.

EU Commission proposes EU-wide laws to combat violence against women

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