It is a proven fact women are prime targets of gender-based violence.

In fact, 1 in every 2 women has experienced sexual harassment at least once and to make matters worse, 1 in every 3 women has experienced physical or sexual violence[1]. The European Union (“EU”) has put its foot down and consequently drafted a new directive to combat the violence targeted against women. This is the first of its kind and has just received the seal of approval of the European Council signifying that its implementation is in the works.

The main areas that this law shall cover are the following: female genital mutilation, forced marriage, non-consensual sharing of intimate images and cyber offences such as cyber stalking, cyber harassment and cyber incitement to hatred or violence.

Upon the implementation of the said directive, these offences will be criminalized across all member states of the EU. These crimes shall be punishable by prison sentences of up to 5 years, with 1 year being the minimum. As with any crimes, there are aggravating circumstances which when present and satisfied, lead to more severe punishments for the same crimes. Such aggravations include committing an offence against a minor or a former or current spouse, partner or significant other.

Apart from the criminalization of these offences, the directive also lists detailed rules and procedures which are to be adopted by member states to ensure the assistance and protection offered to victims. For instance, member states should have at least an online portal to report cybercrimes. Apart from that, when children report a crime committed by a parent (or any other person with parental responsibility) authorities must take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of the child in question, before taking action and informing the alleged offender. In ogni caso, member states must ensure that children are always assisted by professionals, be it therapists, lawyers et al.

The directive also emphasizes, that in the interest of protecting the victim’s privacy and to prevent repetition of victimisation, member states must thus ensure that evidence relating to the victim’s past sexual conduct should only be permitted in criminal proceedings when it is essential and relevant.

Once the directive is officially published in the Official Journal of the EU, member states shall have a 3-year window to transpose the directive into their respective national laws, in default of which they shall face infringement proceedings as well as financial penalties. These shall also apply if the directive is transposed in a poor manner (incomplete).

For more information or assistance please contact Dr Robert Tufigno and Dr Delilah Vella

[1] Facts: EU measures to end violence against women - Consilium (

Disclaimer This article is not intended to impart legal advice and readers are asked to seek verification of statements made before acting on them.
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