The first major European law against gender-based violence will not include the crime of rape, one of the most serious assaults women can suffer. This contradiction is caused by the lack of consensus on the legal definition of rape. The draft, which follows criteria agreed in the European Commission and the European Parliament, proposes to base the crime on the absence of consent, i.e. any non-consensual sexual intercourse would be rape, requiring victims to provide Without evidence it involved force, threat or intimidation. The draft was presented by the Commission in March 2022 and has since been the subject of intense debate, with many countries opposing the proposed definition, which is new but already adopted in the domestic law of several countries, including Spain .
During the talks, 14 member countries opposed this definition. In some cases, such as Hungary or Poland, for ideological reasons: they were against consent based on the criminal offense of rape. Others have opposed a common definition, arguing that this is a matter for each country's criminal law. This is the case of Germany and France, which have been highly criticized for their blocked position. A favorable vote from any of them would be enough to reach a qualified majority of 15 member states – 65% of the EU population – which would allow the project to prosper.
This has not been the case and the processing has left a bitter taste as the new law represents a leap forward in the fight against sexual violence, but shows that resistance to change in mindset remains important in the treatment of sexual assaults. The result is particularly inconsistent with the fact that most EU member states have signed the Istanbul Convention, which focuses the definition of rape on the absence of consent.
However, it should be noted that the new rules, although incomplete with respect to initial expectations, have gone further as they address other forms of violence against women such as forced marriage, genital mutilation or cyber violence – whether through harassment or digital. Unite and punish sexual harassment. Media. The law, which must pass the final filter of the European Chamber and the European Council, will make it possible to standardize and unify the fight against sexist violence in the Union, where very unequal laws and public resources now co-exist.
The disappointment of delegates and parties that promoted the initial draft is understandable, but this setback only indicates that great efforts still need to be continued to change the ideological framework on violence against women. That is why it is important that a review clause is included at the last minute after five years.