Macron and Scholz, defenders of women's rights, really?


Macron and Scholz, defenders of women's rights, really?

Sexual violence

Should rape be recognised as a form of violence against women at European level? If the question seems bizarre, wait until you read the response from certain Member States. A strange battle, as hidden as it is momentous, has been going on in Brussels for several months. Hidden in that it pits the European Commission, the Parliament and the representatives of the EU countries against each other, but behind the scenes. Crucial, because it concerns millions of European women.

Some Member States, led by France and Germany, are expending considerable energy to unravelling the ambitions of the first European law to combat violence against women.

This text, suggested by the Commission in 2022 and since amended by the Parliament, proposes something new that should win consensus: a Europe-wide definition of the violence that particularly affects women, namely rape, female genital mutilation, cyber harassment, the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and forced marriage. In addition to the definition, the legislators have defined a catalogue of penalties to harmonise the penal response at the European level, so as not to create legal loopholes on such major issues.

Determined, the European Parliament, led by the EPP Group, has already adopted its position and is currently negotiating the final version of the Directive with the Member States. And that's where things get tricky... Unlikely as it may seem, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz are hitting the brakes. In particular, they are deadlocked over the idea of including consent-based rape in the definition of violence and the associated penalties. As far as they are concerned, the answer is NO: No common definition, no common penalties, no common protection. Nothing at all.  

Fake news, you may think! How can Macron, who is so proud of Simone Veil's legacy, oppose such a thing? How can Scholz, the bearer of the socialist ideal and would-be champion of gender equality, do the same? The answer is not obvious and demonstrates a confusing view of the law.

To justify their actions, these states argue that there is no legal basis. Rape would not be "sexual exploitation of women and children" within the meaning of Article 83 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which serves as the legal basis for this Directive. A surprising interpretation, given that this is precisely the principle on which the EU based its legislation to combat "sexual abuse of children". Legislation that France and Germany have adopted without batting an eyelid.

On the part of the Commission and the European Parliament, we continue to believe that this text would be fundamental in protecting victims. Every year, more than 100,000 rapes are recorded in the European Union, according to INSEE, and we will not be able to protect victims or even begin to improve the situation with a scant law. 

As a new round of negotiations, possibly the last, between the stakeholders opens this week, we hope that Macron and Scholz will change their minds and agree to include rape in this unprecedented law. That would be the least they could do to match their grand speeches on the importance of women's rights with concrete action.

Note to editors

The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 176 Members from all EU Member States

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