On 8th November 2023, EUD attended the event “Loud and United For a Strong Directive to end Violence against Women” which was held by the European Parliament (EP) Civil Society Outreach Unit and EP InfoHub Centre, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) and WeMove Europe. The event was organised to highlight the support for the EU’s first ever law on violence against women (VAW) and domestic violence (DV).
To provide some context for the importance of this event, as the draft directive is going through the EU decision making process, disappointingly the EU Council has blocked the offence of rape in Article 5. Therefore, in this event, we gathered to call for a directive that includes the offence of rape based on the “Only Yes Means Yes” approach. This event was timely as the trialogue meeting will be held on 14th November where the inter-instutional negotiations on the proposal will take place.
During the event we heard from several key representatives on this crucial topic. EUD believes that the crime of rape cannot be left out of a Directive on VAW and DV as it is one of the most pervasive and brutal forms of violence against deaf women and girls. On this basis, EUD is advocating to provide the voice of deaf women and girls who are statistically at a higher risk of violence – 2 to 5 times more – than those without disabilities. On this point, the EU Disability Forum’s Human Rights Coordinator, Ms Marine Uldry, represented the voice of women and girls with disabilities in the panel discussions. Ms Uldry highlighted the importance that this directive does not discriminate against women and girls with disabilities, as they are often forgotten or not deemed relevant in this debate. Moreover, she stressed that women and girls with disabilities are often not believed when they report their experiences of sexual or domestic violence.
Further points were raised by Ms Uldry as being a crucial part of the directive itself but also the next steps to combat violence against women and girls with disabilities – the need to end forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities; the importance of ensuring the accessibility of all measures developed for survivors and victims of violence; and the need for more data collection at the EU level that is disaggregated by disability taking an intersectional approach. Finally, Ms Uldry highlighted a particularly relevant and important point for deaf women and girls, that helplines are not accessible for them which must change.
Last month, on 11th October 2023, the EU Council adopted a resolution on preventing and combating violence against women with disabilities, calling on all EU Member States to take action on this vital topic and not leave women with disabilities behind in this fight.
Lastly, Dr Lara Dimitrijevic, a founding partner at Sciberras Associates in Malta, provided information on the various legal definitions of rape. Ms Dimitrijevic stressed the need for a legal definition of rape to be included in the final proposal and that it should be based on a lack of consent. The current legal system puts the emphasis on the victim to prove that they have been raped and we need to switch the approach and make the perpetrator proves that he is innocent – this is the violence-based definition of rape. In this way, the systems in place that should protect women, often “re-victimise” them.