Recommendations from Amnesty International on the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating violence against women and domestic violence

Amnesty International welcomes the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence (COM (2022) 105 final, 8 March 2022) (hereinafter “draft Directive”). As this draft Directive is negotiated, we urge the Parliament, Council, and the Commission to consider our recommendations that would strengthen the protection of the rights of survivors of gender-based violence and domestic violence.

We welcome that this initiative provides comprehensive solutions, incorporating prevention, protection, and prosecution for a range of criminal offences constituting gender-based violence. We encourage EU decisionmakers to incorporate in the Directive, as well as accompanying guidance and policies, a truly effective approach to gender-based violence. Such an approach should be based on research into the specific needs for accessing protection, support, justice and remedies of different groups of survivors of gender-based violence, look at the extent of crimes of all forms of gender-based violence in European societies and aim to address its root causes.

Additionally, to be truly effective in addressing the needs of women and girls who are targeted for gender-based violence, the EU should ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) within the broadest possible scope of EU competence. We welcome current developments moving towards accession to the Istanbul Convention, after years of a stalemate mainly due to resistance of a few member states. We regret the narrow scope of this accession limited to matters regarding judicial cooperation in criminal matters and with regard to asylum and non-refoulement and urge the EU to work towards ensuring broader accession with urgency. In addition, we support the European Parliament’s call to include gender-based violence as a “Euro-crime” as listed in TFEU Article 83(1) given that they are “particularly serious,” have significant impact, and that there is “a special need to combat” them.

Since this Directive puts forward a number of new criminal offences under EU law, we provide input to further reflect international human rights law and standards, including from the Istanbul Convention. In addition to defining various forms of gender-based violence as criminal offences as per the Istanbul Convention, we also provide suggestions where the Directive can be strengthened to ensure other comprehensive policies and measures are available and accessible to all victims/survivors of gender-based violence including regarding better prevention, protection, support and access to timely, effective and transformative reparation.     

Such comprehensive action reflects the international human rights law and standards which associate gender-based violence with violations of the right to life, the right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment, as well as violations of the right to equality and non-discrimination. The European Court of Human Rights, as well as the UN treaty bodies such as the Committee against Torture, and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women have all specified the range of crimes of violence against women. This comprehensive approach to gender-based violence is reflected also in the practice of the Istanbul Convention.

All forms of gender-based violence should be addressed comprehensively however they manifest in order to address harms and ensure their prevention. As a step forward to addressing impunity and ending the stigma faced by survivors of gender-based violence, all forms of gender-based violence as listed in the Istanbul Convention should be identified as criminal offences, and other concerted efforts taken to challenge widespread harmful gender stereotypes underlying these crimes and introduce comprehensive policies for prevention of gender-based violence.

The draft Directive makes important progress in providing for various measures for prevention of gender-based violence, including education, public awareness raising campaigns and training for professionals; in providing protection for women and girls who are known to be at immediate risk of violence, and in providing accessible services to all victims/survivors of gender-based violence, taking account of the intersecting forms of discrimination victims/survivors may face, so that they can recover from the effects of gender-based violence.