Despite the progressive strides taken by the EU to curb the long-standing epidemic of gender-based violence, it remains a traumatising reality for several vulnerable individuals.
In fact, the Civil Liberties and Women’s Rights committees have issued a draft legislative report to classify such discriminatory violence as a crime under EU law and to include online and offline gender-based violence as a new area of crime listed under Article 83(1) TFEU.
The report denounced femicide as “the most extreme form of gender-based violence against women and girls” and said that the denial of safe and legal abortion care is also classified as a form of such violence.
It received 53 votes in favour, 18 against and 24 abstentions.
This is not the first time that the EU made a major attempt at combatting gender-based violence.
The Istanbul Convention drafted a landmark treaty that has been in effect for the past 10 years.
It is the first legally binding instrument at a European level that recognises violence against women as a form of discrimination and thus a violation of human rights.
All EU member states have signed it while 21 of them have ratified the treaty – including Malta in 2014.
The treaty uses a victim-centred approach that is tailored to ensure the protection, safety, and empowerment of women and girls. This is all done to reach its ultimate goal; gender equality.
Notwithstanding the fact that it has caused substantial positive developments in cases regarding violence against women, the fact that conversations on how to tackle this major issue are still ongoing shows that criminalisation is not enough.
The aforementioned draft legislative report even argued that we’ve gone backwards during the pandemic, saying that the situation’s only been exacerbated and has thus increased the levels of inequality.
They also touched on the lack of trust in law enforcement authorities which subsequently leads to underreporting.
This issue is of no surprise when national cases like those of; Glenn Carabott, a police officer who raped a woman when he was tending to her burglary and; the Msida police officer who raped a colleague in 2018 and sexually harassed another policewoman several times, exist.
Changes in legislation do not necessarily result in changes in a cultural mindset that dictate the way individuals of the relevant institutions approach these cases – if the general society doesn’t acknowledge the seriousness of these cases then neither will the people that enforce the law.
This is why there is an additional need for institutional preventive measures.
In fact, the co-rapporteur of the draft legislative initiative Malin Bjork said that “we need strong legislation, but we also need to invest in women’s shelters, in education and in healthcare, including sexual and reproductive rights such as abortion rights”.
“The report recognises that LGBTI+ people are victims of gender-based violence as well, as they too suffer from gender inequalities and patriarchal stereotypes,” she continued.
One-third of women in the EU have experienced physical and/or sexual violence and in the last 20 years, 47 women in Malta have been killed by a person within the context of femicide.
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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