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Parliament urges automatic prosecution for sex crimes

Rape and other forms of sexual violence against women should be classified as crimes in all EU countries, leading to automatic prosecution, says a European Parliament resolution adopted on Tuesday that calls for an EU directive to combat gender-based violence.

Europe's women do not have equal protection against male violence across the EU, as national laws and policies differ from one Member State to another, states the resolution which is titled "priorities and outline of a new EU policy framework to fight violence against women". It was drafted by Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL, SV) and was adopted by show of hands.

All Member States should recognise rape and sexual violence against women as crimes, including within marriage and intimate informal relationships, contends Parliament. Member States should also ensure that such offences result in automatic prosecution. Any reference to cultural traditional or religious practices as a mitigating factor, including so-called "crimes of honour" and female genital mutilation, must be rejected.

EU directive against gender-based violence

The resolution also calls for an EU directive against gender-based violence. Around 20-25% of all women in Europe have experienced acts of physical violence at least once during their adult lives and over one tenth have suffered sexual violence involving the use of force.

Stalking should also be considered as a form of violence against women and be dealt with by means of a standard legal framework in all Member States, believe MEPs.

"Women are victims of gender based violence but we must cease to see them as just victims", said rapporteur Eva-Britt Svensson. "They are often strong women who with proper support from society can build a new and better life for themselves and their children. I am very happy that Parliament agreed today that violence against women is a priority for the European Union and I look forward to the Commission's proposals for a strategy and an action plan to combat such violence."

Preventing exploitation, guaranteeing legal aid and helping victims

The EU and its Member States should also establish laws guaranteeing immigrant women the right to hold their own passports and residence permits, says the resolution, adding that it should be made possible to hold a person criminally responsible for taking these documents away.

In addition, MEPs call for minimum standards to ensure that victims have advice from a legal practitioner and access to legal aid enabling them to assert their rights throughout the Union. They also call for "minimum requirements as to the number of victim support structures per 10,000 inhabitants for victims of gender-based violence in the form of centres with specific expertise to help victims".

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