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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C

MEPs vote to make gender-based violence a crime in the EU

Ursula von der Leyen said legislation would be drawn up by the end of this year.

MEMBERS OF THE European Parliament have voted in favour of listing gender-based violence as a specific category of crime under EU law. 

MEPs voted to call on the European Commission to put forward a law on gender-based violence, which commission president Ursula von der Leyen said will be finalised by the end of this year. 

Online and offline gender-based violence would be listed as a new area of crime under an existing EU Article alongside other crimes such as human, drug and arms trafficking, computer crime and terrorism. 

The initiative was passed in Strasbourg this afternoon with 427 votes in favour. 119 voted against the motion and 140 abstained.  

Gender-based violence refers to harmful acts directed at a person based on their gender. 

The European Parliament said one-third of women in the EU have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. 

A statement from the Department of Justice said that gender-based violence is already a crime in Irish law “on the basis that any act of violence can be prosecuted as a criminal act”.

“Additionally, under the General Scheme of the recently published Hate Crime legislation, gender is included as a protected characteristic,” the statement said. 

“Under part 2 of that legislation, there are a proposed seven amendments to the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, to allow for an enhanced penalty when the offence is aggravated by prejudice against a protected characteristic.”

The department said it would consider any proposals brought forward by the commission down the line. 


The legislation drawn up by the commission is set to follow international standards and contain prevention measures like gender-sensitivity education.

It should also contain support services and protection measures for victims, minimum standards for law enforcement and better cooperation between member states. 

In her state of union speech yesterday, von der Leyen said that during the pandemic “too many women were deprived” of freedom from fear. 

“It was a particularly terrible time for those who had nowhere to hide, nowhere to flee from their tormentors,” she said. 

“Women must be able to live freely and self-determinedly again.”

The legislation will be “about effective prosecution, prevention and protection, online and offline,” von der Leyen said.

Minister of State for Criminal and Civil Justice Hildegarde Naughton TD said in July that the government is “determined to tackle the scourge of Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence”. 

Statistics show that one in four women in Ireland have been abused by a current or former partner. 

One in seven men have also been a victim of domestic violence, but males represent just 5% of reported crimes.

About 43,000 calls were made to gardaí last year in relation to domestic abuse, representing a 16% hike on 2019 numbers.

Safe Ireland – a national network of 37 organisations which support domestic abuse victims – said the pandemic has “proven to be a threat, but also an opportunity, for the DSGBV (Domestic, Sexual & Gender-Based Violence) sector – with all the burdens that implies”.

A spokesperson for the network previously said: “We have been clear from the very beginning of this pandemic that Covid-19 did not cause domestic and sexual violence. It has exposed it.

“We have also been clear that this epidemic, and the quite phenomenal outpouring of communal empathy for those living with control and abuse that we have seen, has also fully revealed the inadequate, siloed and poorly resourced way in which we are responding to coercive control generally, and domestic violence specifically.”

Contains reporting by Órla Ryan. 

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