Frances Fitzgerald said that hesitation towards introducing an EU-wide consent-based definition of rape, based on a legal argument that it does not fall under the banner of sexual exploitation, was “not acceptable”.
Ms Fitzgerald and Swedish socialist MEP Evin Incir are leading the process to introduce EU-wide laws tackling domestic violence and violence against women.
Under the current draft, rape, sexual assault, and cyber stalking would become an offence at an EU level.
But some member states are against including a consent-based approach to rape in the proposed EU directive, something Ms Fitzgerald said indicated a “lack of urgency” to tackle gender-based violence.
She said that “strong” legal advice from some member states suggested that an EU-wide rape law would be “an overreach”, as the legal foundation of sexual exploitation was to target trafficking.
She said France and Germany are among the countries that have voiced opposition to the inclusion of rape in the directive.
“There’s no problem with FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) or cyber violence, but there is with rape, and I can’t help but feel that it’s something to do with the very crime itself and member states’ difficulties in managing it from a criminal justice point of view, and therefore being nervous about anything that seeks to kind of put an overarching framework around that.
“A city the size of Marseilles, Amsterdam or Zagreb disappears every 10 years as 858,000 women are murdered globally.
“So I can’t help but think it is part of misogyny, and it’s part of a patriarchal society that we live in, that we’ve had such a job getting crimes against women to the top of the agenda.”