Council adopts first-ever EU law combating violence against women

The Council has given the green light to an EU directive to combat violence against women and domestic violence. Taking decisive action against these acts of violence is essential to ensure the values and fundamental rights of equality between women and men and of non-discrimination. The law requires all EU countries to criminalise female genital mutilation, forced marriage and cyber violence such as the non-consensual sharing of intimate images.

The new law also contains measures to prevent violence against women and domestic violence and sets standards for the protection of victims of these crimes.

Main elements

The law that was adopted criminalises the following offences across the EU: female genital mutilation, forced marriage, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, cyber stalking, cyber harassment and cyber incitement to hatred or violence.

Committing these crimes will be punishable by prison sentences ranging from at least one to five years. The directive also comes with an extensive list of aggravating circumstances, such as committing the offence against a child, a former or current spouse or partner or a public representative, a journalist or a human rights defender, which carry more severe penalties.

The directive also contains detailed rules on the measures of assistance and protection that member states should provide to victims.

It will become easier for victims of violence against women and domestic violence to report a crime. As a minimum, it will be possible to report cybercrimes online. EU countries must also put measures in place to ensure that children are assisted by professionals. When children report a crime committed by someone with parental responsibility, authorities will have to take measures to protect the safety of the child before informing the alleged perpetrator.

In order to protect a victim’s privacy and prevent repeat victimisation, member states must furthermore ensure that evidence relating to the victim’s past sexual conduct should only be permitted in criminal proceedings when it is relevant and necessary.

With the idea of building a safer future, preventive measures aim to increase awareness on the root causes of violence against women and domestic violence and to promote the central role of consent in sexual relationships.

Next steps

Member states have three years from the entry into force of the directive to transpose it into national law.

Source: Council of the EU | Press releases (