new EU law still puts migrant women at risk of violence

  • Post last modified:May 8, 2024
  • Reading time:4 mins read

On Tuesday 7 May, European Union (EU) countries backed the bloc’s first law devoted to combatting violence against women and girls (VAWG). However, the text was a far-cry from enshrining intersectional feminist justice. Notably, the EU’s racist borderisation will continue to expose migrant women to the threat of gender-based violence.

New EU law on VAWG

On the face of it, the new law did take some significant steps on tackling VAWG.

Specifically, the sweeping law aims to protect women in the 27-nation EU from gender-based violence, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, and online harassment. Additionally, it contained provisions addressing non-consensual sharing of intimate images, cyber stalking and harassment, as well as cyber incitement to hatred or violence.

Essentially, it criminalises these offences and sets minimum sentences – ranging from one year to five years in prison depending on the crime.

On top of this, as the European Council’s press release detailed:

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.

Moreover, it also sets out rules on measures of “assistance and protection” that countries must provide to victims of gender-based violence.

However, the new law fell short in a number of crucial areas. Most notably, countries controversially derailed settling on a consent-based definition of rape at the EU level.

The bloc was split on putting this in the directive. Countries including Italy and Greece who wanted a definition of rape in the final text. Meanwhile, nations like France and Germany opposed its inclusion, arguing the EU did not have competence in the matter.

Exposing migrant women to racist immigration

A group of human rights and women’s equality organisations commended aspects of the new law. However, they have also highlighted its major shortcomings.

In particular, they dragged the EU’s law on its failure to protect migrant women. The group, including Amnesty International and Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE), said that:

EU lawmakers yet again silenced women impacted by EU migration policies. The only concrete step forward for migrant women is that the text requires Member States to make shelters available to all women experiencing domestic abuse, regardless of their residence status.

Nonetheless we condemn that the final text does not retain provisions on protecting undocumented women’s personal data from being transmitted to immigration authorities (neither in the context of accessing shelters, nor in terms of accessing justice).

Member States must ensure that women are not deterred from going to the police because of their residence status, by including access to safe reporting in the ongoing revision of the Victims’ Rights Directive

Worse still, in February, a leaked version of the EU’s new directive showed that this didn’t have to be the case. Instead, the earlier text had in fact included a data non-disclosure clause. This would have prevented collusion between domestic violence services and immigration authorities.

Ultimately, the bloc’s white supremacist fortress Europe project has always persecuted migrants seeking safety. So it’s no surprise Europe’s anti-migrant racism is once again putting vulnerable lives at risk. As ever, it shows that there can be no feminist justice, without migrant justice.

Feature image via Youtube – European Commission

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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