EU LEVEL DEVELOPMENTS ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
This document provides information on two recent developments at EU level on violence against women:
- The legislative process related to the European Commission proposal of EU accession to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention).
- The European Commission proposal of a year of focused actions on violence against women in 2017.
- EU accession to the Istanbul Convention
The institutions involved in the legislative process are: the European Commission, that has launched the proposal of EU accession to the Istanbul Convention; the Council of the European Union, that has to approve both the signature and the conclusion, the European Parliament that has to express its consent for the ratification (the legal term being used is “conclusion”).
- The European Commission has proposed (March 2016) the European Union’s accession to the Istanbul Convention in the framework of the EU competence and in two steps: its signature and conclusion. The European commission has launched this process after assessing the different options regarding the Convention (See the Roadmap on “(A possible) EU accession to the Istanbul Convention published in November 2015”).
According to the European Commission, the areas where the EU has competence are limited to:
- Anti-discrimination law: sexual harassment in matters of employment and occupation and access to and supply of goods and services.
This is related to the three directives on implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women: Directive 2004/113/EC in the access to and supply of goods and services; Directive 2006/54/EC in matters of employment and occupation; Directive 2010/41/EU in matters of activity in a self-employed capacity.
- Protection of victims of crime: _
This is related to the Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime).
- Sexual exploitation of women and children:
This is related to the Directive 2011/93/EU on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography and the Directive 2011/36/EU on trafficking in human beings.
- Certain matters in the area of asylum and migration:
This refers to the residence status of mobile EU nationals and their third-country spouses, as well as the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents and their spouses; and Consular protection.
- Cross-border civil and criminal matters.
This refers to several key pieces of legislation: Regulation (EU) No 606/2013 on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters. Council Framework Decision 2008/947/JHA on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to judgments and probation decisions; Directive 2011/99/EU on the European protection order.
- Data protection:
This refers to the Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, OJ and the Council Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA on the protection of personal data processed in the framework of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
Therefore, according to the European Commission proposal of signature and conclusion, the provisions of the Istanbul Convention that do not relate to the above mentioned areas of EU competence, will not apply at EU level.
- Council of the European Union:
- Discussions are being held in the framework of a preparatory body: The Working Party on Fundamental Rights, Citizens’ Rights and Free Movement of Persons deals with issues FREMP working party. The participants in this working parties are representatives of the different permanent representations of each countries.
The current discussions at the FREMP working party are around the legal consequences of the signature and ratification. A code of conduct between the Council, the Member States and the Commission setting out internal arrangements for the implementation and representation of the European Union needs to be agreed. It will be similar to the code of conduct approved after the ratification of the UN convention of the rights of people with disabilities is being prepared.
All the Member States are willing to have the EU signing/ ratifying (except one: Poland). However, there are discussions regarding the extent of competence to which the EU should access and the legal implications. Several countries will prefer to have a “narrower” accession. It can be those who have not ratified the Istanbul Convention but also those who have signed/ratified with reservations.
Majority of Member States want to clear the question of legal background, limitation of competence and legal consequences of signature and ratification – competence and consequence analysis.
While there support from several member states (and the Slovak Presidency) to have the signature done by the end of the year, the ratification will only be done after all dilemma is cleared.
Past FREMP meetings: 12/09/2016; 06/10/2016; 07/10/2016; 4/11/2016; COHOM- FREMP meeting: 2/12/2016
Next FREMP meetings: 1/12/2016; 16/01/2017
Their agendas are not made public.
Next meeting: 6 February 2016 (First one of the Maltese Presidency)
- COREPER II. Coreper stands for the ‘Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States to the European Union’. Coreper II is composed of each member states’ permanent representatives. It is chaired by the permanent representative of the country holding the presidency of the Council.
The Justice and Home Affairs Council configuration (JHA) will take the final decision (no dates foreseen).
- European Parliament (whose consent is only needed for the Conclusion, not for the signature):
- Report on the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (NLE – Non-legislative enactments).
- LIBE: MEP Christine Revault D’allonges Bonnefoy, S&D France.
- FEMM: MEP Ana Maria Corazza Bildt, EPP Sweden.
MATERA Barbara, Italy (LIBE and FEMM)
GARCÍA PÉREZ Iratxe, Spain. (LIBE and FEMM)
GIRLING Julie, UK (FEMM)
MLINAR Angelika, Austria (LIBE and FEMM)
KUNEVA Kostadinka, Greece (FEMM)
VON STORCH Beatrix, Germany (LIBE and FEMM)
- Furthermore, it is interesting to note that in the European Parliament there is a working group on violence against women in the FEMM Committee. There is one MEP for each political group. They are working on a campaign to promote the Istanbul Convention ratification. Three events have been already organised.
- Debate in EP Plenary following Parliamentary question (Question for oral answer for the 23 of November ): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+OQ+O-2016-000122+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN
You can see the debate here.
- EP motion for a resolution – that has been voted by a huge majority in the European Parliament 24/11/2016 (In favour: 516, Against: 54, Abstentions: 52.): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20161118IPR51859/stop-violence-against-women-meps-call-on-eu-to-join-the-istanbul-convention .
The joint motion for resolution sends a strong political message to the Council, in light of the delayed discussions happening in the framework of the FREMP working group. The recommendations are very strong and include a call to the Council to speed up the negotiations and asking for the EU accession on a broad basis and without reservations and have further legislative actions. It also calls for more legislative action at EU level on data collection and prevention and also calls to activate the pasarell clause for article 83 to include VAW as an Eurocrime , which is necesary to have a EU Directive.
- LIBE/FEMM mini-hearing on the EU accession to the Istanbul Convention, 29/11 from 11:30 to 12:30.
Key speakers included:
- Ms Dubravka Šimonović, UN Special Rapporteur, who highlighted that the Istanbul Convention and the CEDAW convention are fully compatible and complementing each other and advised that the istanbul Convention provides a roadmap to fulfill CEDAW obligations;
- Ms Tiina Astola, European Commission, thanked the strong efforts made by the Slovak presidency to make progress in the negotiations and highlighted the impact that the Istanbul convention could have: i.e., the larger scope of the IC when compared to the victims rights directive and the gender dimension in the review of the EU directives on asylum.
- Mr Marian Filcik, Council Presidency briefly referred to the actions developed by the Slovak Presidency. He mention that there were still some hopes to get the signature in the last meeting of FREMP on the 1st of December;
- Ms Corazza Bildt, FEMM EPP Rapporteur, highlighted the large majority that supported the EP resolution on the Eu accession to the Istanbul Convention. She brought up several stories of victims of violence. She strongly said that we need to talk about male violence against women. She said that religion or culture where no excuse to perpetrate violence but she also highlighted that VAW is not a migration issue and that stigmatisation of migrants is unacceptable. “VAW has existed in Europe for centuries perpetrated by white men”. She also referred to the fact that the questioning around “gender” and the anti-gender ideology was an abuse of interpetration to discriminate against homoxesual people.
- Ms Revault d’Allonnes Bonnefoy, LIBE S&D rapporteur, informed about the next stages: the report that will go into detail also on the role of the EP. She said that implementation will need a maximum of political will at all levels; and that a directive is an essential next step. She also highlighted the need to have an intersectional perspective in the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.
In the discussion session, several progressive MEP took the floor in support of the Istanbul Convention (Malin Bjork, Becerra Becerril,etc). Several other extremist conservative MEPs took the floor to alert against the gender theory of the Istanbul Convention.
Other relevant institutions:
- EU Presidencies:
- Slovak Presidency (June-December 2016): Their priorities are linked to employment and balance between work, family and private life; and poverty and social exclusion. However, they have included the issue in each meeting of the FREMP working party to try to move forward and get the signature of the Istanbul Convention. They expressed their wish to have the signature done by the end of the year. However, the discrepancies around the scope of competence and legal impact has not allowed this to move forward. They circulated a questionnaire among the MS to know what the positions are and have asked the Legal services of the Council to develop an opinion on the legal impact of the Istanbul Convention.
The opinion of the Council is already out (but it is not public). The opinion is favourable to the EU Accession to the Istanbul Convention. Finally, they had launched a proposal of signature of the convention only regarding exclusive competence, without detailing these are as they change over time.
- Maltese Presidency (January-June 2017). Violence against women is a priority. ms. Helena Dalli, Minister http://www.eu2017.mt/en/Pages/Maltese-Priorities.aspx
They are organising a Conference on violence against women that will take place in February next year (3/02/2017). Invitations are out.
- Member States: 28 have signed the Istanbul Convention: 14 have ratified and 14 are yet to do it.
- European Commission year of
focused actions on violence against women in 2017
DG Justice has announced a Year of focused actions on violence against women in 2017. http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/just/item-detail.cfm?item_id=37131
NB: It is not a European year. The last one took place in 2015 and was the year on development. In 2016, there has not been a European Year.
Several of the main activities are the following ones:
- Eurobarometer on gender based violence (normally on attitudes towards violence), to be released in November 2016.
An Eurobarometer survey on attitudes towards gender-based violence has been published today.[/b]http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/image/document/2016-48/infographic_combat_violence_woman_40135.pdf
According to this survey, almost all Europeans (96%) think that domestic violence against women is unacceptable.
While there is widespread agreement that domestic violence, sexual harassment and other acts of gender-based violence are unacceptable the survey shows that it is still occurs widely. Three quarters of respondents (74%) say that domestic violence against women is common in their country. One quarter of respondents (24%) say they know of a friend or family member who has been a victim of domestic violence.
Moreover, the survey also reveals the persistence of victim-blaming and alarming attitudes about consent. For example, more than one in five respondents (22%) believe that women often make up or exaggerate claims of abuse or rape and more than one quarter (27%) think sexual intercourse without consent can be justifiable.
- Seminar, exchanges of good practices under the Mutual learning Programme in Gender equality (tbc).
- Restricted grant to Governments for awareness-raising and education activities aimed at preventing and combating violence against women.
The Governments (the national authority in charge of the policy on equality between women and men or by the national authority in charge of the policy on violence against women) are encouraged to work with a variety of partners, including civil society organizations.
This call for proposals will provide funding for effective national activities (campaigns; exhibitions; education and training programmes; teaching and learning material; exchange of experiences and good practice; seminars and conferences; information days at public or private institutions) aimed at: changing attitudes and behaviours towards violence against women; training relevant professionals; training journalists and media professionals in order to ensure sensitive and appropriate reporting of the issue and incidents; encouraging men and boys to challenge sexism and gender norms that encourage violence against women, and actively engage in the fight against violence against women; informing victims about their rights and the support services (shelters, helplines etc.) and protection measures available in their country (including the availability of cross-border protection measures).
Deadline to submit proposals: 27 October 2016, 12:00 (noon) Central European Time.
In its letter to the European Commission, European coalition to end violence against women and girls has expressed their disappointment on the fact this call was open only to governments and that cooperation with civil society NGOs and women’s organisations was not made compulsory.
- Two action grants that will be launched on the 25 November:
- Action grants to educate and raise the awareness of girls and boys about gender-based violence as a way to prevent it at an early stage. REC-RDAP-AWAR-AG-2016
- Action grants to promote the access to justice and support of victims of gender-based violence and the treatment of perpetrators– REC-RDAP-VICT-AG-2016
Opening date: 24 November. Deadline 8 March 2017.
The applicants and partners must be public entities or private organisations or international organizations, including NGOs.
In its letter to the European Commission, European coalition to end violence against women and girls has expressed their disappointment on the fact this the call f to promote access to justice and support of victims of gender-based violence, also includes in the same call the treatment of perpetrators as it is really important that the work with perpetrators does not have the same source of funding as the work with women and girls.
- Maltese Presidency conference on Violence against Women – 3 February 2017 (tbc).