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EU Adopts Groundbreaking Legislation Combatting Violence Against Women

The European Union has passed its first-ever legislation aimed at combating violence against women. The law mandates all EU member states to criminalize practices such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and online harassment. Despite unanimous agreement on the necessity of the legislation, disagreements arose regarding a common definition of rape. Despite this, the law marks a significant step forward in protecting women’s rights across the EU.

Key Provisions of the Law

The sweeping legislation targets gender-based violence, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, and cyber violence, including online stalking and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. It also facilitates the reporting of domestic abuse crimes and introduces stricter punishments, with jail sentences of up to five years. Furthermore, the law allows for even harsher penalties for crimes against specific groups such as children, spouses, ex-spouses, politicians, journalists, and human rights activists.

European Leaders Praise the Initiative

Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Paul Van Tigchelt emphasized the persistence of violence against women and domestic violence, highlighting the importance of strong sanctions for perpetrators and comprehensive support for victims. Marie-Colline Leroy, Belgium’s Secretary of State for Gender Equality, hailed the legislation as a groundbreaking moment in advancing women’s rights, emphasizing the necessity of creating an environment where women can live without fear of harassment or violence.

Challenges and Room for Improvement

Despite the unanimous support for the legislation’s necessity, disagreements persisted regarding a common EU definition of rape. While some member states advocated for such a definition, others argued that it fell beyond the EU’s competence. Although the final text of the directive did not include a common definition of rape, many politicians view the law as a positive starting point. Spanish equality minister Ana Redondo expressed a desire for greater ambition in the legislation but acknowledged its significance as a foundational step forward.

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