“We must talk about the scourge of gender-based violence against women every day of the year, not just on 25 November. More work is needed to prevent the spread of new forms of violence like the ones committed in the digital world and raise awareness on the domination and discrimination patterns underlying them”.
(Sara De Vido, Associate Professor of International Law, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice)
In her article for The Conversation.com Sara De Vido explores what more needs to be done to combat for good gender-based violence against women (GBVAW) in all its forms), and why the European Unions’s New Bill is a game-changer in combating violence against women. See full article HERE
She says, more than ever, being united is what really matters in adopting and then effectively implementing new legislation at European and national level.
While the EU has signed the Istanbul Convention*, it has yet to ratify it. The convention is considered as the gold standard for combating gender-based violence against women because it imposes significant obligations. For example, states are required to:
- criminalise the behaviours included in the convention
- provide support to victims, including children that have witnessed violence
- adopt measures of prevention to eradicate stereotypes on the role of women in the society
- and collect data and ensure adequate funding to policies aimed at countering violence against women and domestic violence.
A new directive – a step in the right direction
To overcome the 11 year impasse in relation to the Istanbul Convention, on 8 March 2022 the commission published a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and the Council on combating violence against women and domestic violence. The bill is promising, both in its referrals to the Istanbul Convention and its attempt to surpass it, notably by combating the widespread phenomenon of cyber-violence against women. According to the current draft, member states will be required to make online stalking, harassment, inciting violence or hatred and non-consensual sharing of intimate or manipulated material criminal offences. At present, the Istanbul Convention does not address such behaviours.
The directive is currently being debated by both the EU Parliament and Council. The Parliament will publish a report in January and amendments will be then submitted. The vote in the plenary is expected in spring.
A significant number of NGOs, members of parliament and academics are championing the EU directive, which would mark a step forward in the protection of women and girls from violence in Europe and would support a much-needed cultural change.
However, the directive’s success will depend on its getting a strong push, among the general public or politicians. As it stands, the proposal can clearly be improved, especially regarding the provisions of the Istanbul Convention related to migration.
Despite this, the bill remains a step in the right direction. For the first time, it sets up EU-wide definitions of criminal offences such as rape and female genital mutilation. It also recognises four forms of online violence against women, including gender and/or sex-based incitement to hatred and violence, while calling to protect victims of all forms of GBVAW.
Note: *More than 11 years ago, the 46-state Council of Europe adopted the convention on preventing and combating violence against women. This was known as the Istanbul Convention – see https://www.coe.int/en/web/istanbul-convention/