EU violence protection package: no definition of rape

The EU has agreed on a legislative package in the fight against violence, including harsher penalties for sexualised and domestic violence. However, the lack of agreement on a standardised definition of rape is causing problems. A consensus-based regulation on sexual offences based on the principle "only yes means yes" is a major sticking point, also in the commentaries.

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La Stampa (IT) /

Paris and Berlin to blame

La Stampa rants:

“Is it so difficult to affirm that sexual intercourse without consent is rape, and that rape is a crime? Clearly there are those in Brussels - too many - who think that these months of election campaigning are not the right time to raise controversial issues. That women's rights would be a divisive issue. It's no surprise that Orbán thinks this way. What is surprising, however, is that France and Germany are also calling for Article 5 (which regulates the crime of rape in the absence of explicit consent) to be excluded from the new EU directive on combating violence against women. Macron, speak up! Ursula, where are you? Say something to your compatriot Scholz!”

Der Standard (AT) /

A missed opportunity

Der Standard is disappointed:

“'Yes means yes' does not mean that every move must be approved, but that communication must be maintained during sexual acts. This makes it clear that consent is a prerequisite for sex and that everyone involved is responsible for ensuring this. Legal regulation of this is not easy, but it would create greater social awareness that sexual acts should only take place with mutual consent. The EU has missed the opportunity to do this with the legislative package for the time being. It is a pity that it still does not go without saying that sex can only take place if all those involved want it.”

El País (ES) /

Still considerable resistance

El País pins its hopes on a gradual change of mindset:

“The new law is a step forward in the fight against gender-based violence, but it shows that there is still considerable resistance to a change of mentality in dealing with sexual assault. The result is particularly at odds with the fact that most EU member states have signed up to the Istanbul Convention, which defines rape as the absence of consent. Nevertheless the enforcement of the new law is to be welcomed, as it standardises and criminalises other forms of violence against women such as forced marriage, genital mutilation and cyber violence. ... It is also important that a five-year revision clause was included at the last minute.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Not within the EU's competencies

It is not scandalous for the EU not to introduce EU-wide legislation on rape, argues Christian Rath, legal affairs correspondent for the taz:

“The EU simply has no competence to do this. The body was historically created as a single market. It is not a state. And so it only has competences in those areas where the member states expressly grant them in the EU treaties. The EU is, in principle, not responsible for criminal law, since this is considered a particularly sensitive area that should be left to national legislators. ... Those who point to this jurisdictional boundary, like Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, are not misogynists for doing so.”