The European Council approved an EU directive aimed at combating violence against women and domestic violence, today, May 7. The directive mandates all EU member states to criminalize acts such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and cyber violence like the unauthorized sharing of intimate images.
Alongside punitive measures, the law includes provisions for preventing such violence and ensuring the protection of victims. This move highlights the commitment to upholding equality and non-discrimination within the EU.

Paul Van Tigchelt, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice and the North Sea stated “Violence against women and domestic violence is a persisting crime. This law will guarantee EU-wide that its perpetrators will be strongly sanctioned and that its victims will receive all the support they need.”

While Marie-Colline Leroy, Belgian Secretary of State for Gender Equality Main commented “This is a groundbreaking moment in boosting women’s rights. Real equality can only happen when women can live without fear of being harassed, violently attacked or physically harmed. This law is an important step to make this happen.”

The new EU law criminalizes various offenses including female genital mutilation, forced marriage, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, cyber stalking, harassment, and incitement to hatred or violence online. Perpetrators could face prison terms ranging from one to five years.

The directive includes a comprehensive list of aggravating circumstances, such as committing the offense against a child, a current or former spouse or partner, or a public figure like a journalist or human rights defender. These circumstances carry harsher penalties.

Additionally, the directive outlines specific guidelines for member states to offer assistance and protection to victims.Reporting crimes of violence against women and domestic violence will be more accessible, with the option for victims to report cybercrimes online at a minimum.

EU countries are mandated to implement measures ensuring children receive professional assistance. In cases where children report crimes committed by someone with parental responsibility, authorities must prioritize the child’s safety before notifying the alleged perpetrator.

To safeguard victims’ privacy and prevent re-victimization, member states must ensure that evidence concerning a victim’s past sexual conduct is only admissible in criminal proceedings when deemed relevant and necessary.

Preventive measures aim to raise awareness about the root causes of violence against women and domestic violence while emphasizing the importance of consent in sexual relationships, all in pursuit of a safer future. Member states have three years from the entry into force of the directive to transpose it into national law.