Make gender-based violence a crime under EU law, MEPs say 

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  • Call to establish the legal basis for a comprehensive Directive 
  • EU law should provide minimum rules for criminal law definitions and sanctions in line with Istanbul Convention standards 
  • One third of women in the EU have experienced physical and/or sexual violence 
Parliament calls for gender-based violence to be included as a new area of crime under EU law.© Dominique FAGET / AFP  

Parliament calls for online and offline gender-based violence to be treated as a “particularly serious crime with a cross-border dimension”.

On Thursday, MEPs adopted by 427 votes in favour, 119 against, and 140 abstentions a legislative initiative demanding targeted legislation and policies to address all forms of violence and discrimination based on gender (against women and girls, but also against LGBTIQ+ persons), whether offline or online. They call on the Commission to list gender-based violence as a new area of crime under Article 83(1) TFEU, alongside other crimes that need to be combatted on a common basis, such as human, drug, and arms trafficking, computer crime and terrorism.

This would serve as a legal basis for a victim-centred EU Directive using the standards of the Istanbul Convention and other international standards, and should notably include:

  • prevention measures, including via gender-sensitive and intersectional education programming;
  • support services, protection and reparation measures for victims;
  • measures to end all forms of gender-based violence, including violence against LGBTIQ+ persons;
  • minimum standards for law enforcement;
  • provisions to ensure that incidents of gender-based violence are taken into account when determining child custody and visitation rights; and
  • cooperation among member states and the exchange of best practices, information and expertise.

MEPs also denounce femicide as the most extreme form of gender-based violence against women and girls, and highlight that denying safe and legal abortion care is also a form of gender-based violence. They point to the many adverse personal, social and economic effects of gender-based violence, and reiterate that the situation has been exacerbated by the pandemic. They also refer to survivors’ lack of trust in law enforcement authorities and the judicial system as a significant factor that contributes to incidents being underreported.


Co-rapporteur Malin Björk (The Left, SE) said: “Parliament wants to see some bold action to combat gender-based violence – not only in the form of EU-wide legislation, but also through more investments in women’s shelters, in law enforcement and in feminist education. The report also recognises that sexual and reproductive rights such as abortion rights are crucial, and that not only women but also LGBTI people can be victims of gender-based violence, as this type of violence is based on gender inequalities and patriarchal stereotypes.”

Co-rapporteur Diana Riba i Giner (Greens/EFA, ES) added: "The message from Parliament has been clear. We need more and better tools to combat gender-based violence. We therefore call for common legal definitions, standards and minimum criminal penalties throughout the EU. It is time to act to include gender-based violence in the list of EU crimes, and to present a holistic and inclusive Directive to fight what is one of the most serious and persistent human rights violations in human history.”


One third of women in the EU have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Around 50 women lose their lives to domestic violence every week in Europe (14 in the EU) according to EIGE, and 75% of women in professions requiring qualifications or top management jobs have experienced sexual harassment.

Next steps

During her second State of the EU address in plenary on Wednesday, Commission President von der Leyen told MEPs that, by the end of the year, the Commission will propose a law to combat violence against women that will include prevention, protection and effective prosecution, online and offline.