EU directive on violence against women will not include rape after legal definition roadblock

Irish MEP Frances Fitzgerald says there were months of ‘tough negotiations’ on issue

The European Union’s first ever directive on violence against women and domestic violence will not include the crime of rape, after countries struggled to decide on a legal definition of the crime.

The omission of rape from the directive has been criticised by support groups and politicians, who described the decision as “disappointing”.

Fine Gael MEP for Dublin Frances Fitzgerald, a lead negotiator for the directive, said there were months of “tough negotiations” on the issue.

“The council, that’s the EU member states Governments, have decided to reject the inclusion of the crime of rape based on lack of consent in this first ever piece of EU legislation aimed at protecting women,” she said.


“As a lead negotiator for the European Parliament on this file, it’s with a bitter sense of disappointment and anger that no compromise wording could be found to include the crime of rape in this landmark directive.”

Ms Fitzgerald added: “The blame clearly lies with both the French and German governments who are not willing to vote in favour of the inclusion of rape as a crime.”

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) said the decision is “bitterly disappointing” and the decision to exclude rape “reflects a concerning belief that rape is an expendable provision”.

“We believe this will deepen and widen inequalities that already exist across Europe. It illustrates that barriers to progress were greater than the courage of some Member States to overcome them,” said DRCC chief executive Rachel Morrogh.

“Including rape in the directive was important for both legal and symbolic reasons and its exclusion sends a clear signal to victims and survivors across Europe that it is not a political priority.”

Labour senator Annie Hoey said it is “extremely disappointing and a failing for victims of sexual violence”.

“This directive is a crucial piece of legislation to tackle misogyny, violence against women and ensure that member states put supports and protections in place for all women,” she said.

“It is especially important that all legislators reflect on our task to ensure that this culture is challenged. We need to see violence against women, and all forms of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence condemned and consigned to history. This directive was a clear opportunity to do this.”

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Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times