EU countries need stronger legislation to tackle rape

Crime, european parliament, Gender, Human Rights, photos, prostitution, sexual harrassment, United Kingdom, violence

Sexual violence against women is a most brutal crime, yet still remains a taboo subject in many countries.  It is estimated that almost every other woman in Europe suffers gender-based violence at some point in her life, with 1 in 5 victims of male domestic violence, and 1 in 10 victims of rape or forced sexual acts.

 Yet across the EU rape is one of the least reported crimes, with less than 10% of rapes being reported and far fewer cases ending in a conviction. While rape is criminalised in all 27 EU Member States, some have a broader definition of rape than others. Many EU countries still require proof of physical resistance or do not cover all forms of rape.

 I was therefore very happy to host an event at the European Parliament this morning to launch the latest report into how EU countries are tackling this hateful crime.

Hosting event to launch EWL Barometer on Rape 2103

Hosting event at European Parliament to launch 2013 EWL Barometer on Rape

The European Women’s Lobby Barometer on Rape 2013 looks at legislation and data collection in 32 countries. It compares them with the minimum standards for sexual violence and rape set by the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, adopted in 2011 and currently being ratified).

The EWL found that just 5 countries have legislation that corresponds to the Istanbul Convention definition: the UK and the Netherlands who have “better legislation”, and Ireland, Italy and Turkey who meet minimum standards. The majority of countries (21) need to improve their legislation, recognising lack of consent as an essential element in determining rape and sexual abuse. Six countries need to urgently change their laws (Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Serbia and Ukraine).


Human Rights, violence

I was appalled to see yet more evidence of police officers who think that people exercising their legitimate right to protest is an opportunity for them to go around beating people up and using unncessary violence. Here is the video:

I agree with Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, that it is very difficult to understand what justified “a gargantuan police officer assaulting a smaller woman for having the audacity to complain.”

And if, as seems likely, no explanation is forthcoming, then this officer must face a criminal charge of assault. In addition, action must be taken against the officers, at least two who seem to be of a more senoir rank, who stood idly by and watched a crime being committed.


Human Rights, Turkey

Having already written a letter to the Turkish Prime Minister and blogged on it HERE, I have just put my name to an open letter to David Miliband calling on the British government to use its influence on Turkey. Leyla Zana, the first Kurdish woman elected to the Turkish parliament, has been convicted for up to ten years in prison for speeches she allegedly made in the UK and elsewhere.

Her affront to the Turkish state has been to speak up for peace between Kurds and Turks – a far cry from the supposed promotion of pro-terrorist language she is accused of. She has previously served ten years in jail for fighting for Kurdish rights. Famously, upon entering parliament she called for brotherhood between the Kurdish and Turkish peoples. The offence there? To make this call in her native Kurdish language.

Her earlier trial was found to be unfair and unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights, and her struggle has long been recognised in Europe: in the 1990s Amnesty recognised her as a prisoner of conscience, and the European Parliament awarded her the Sakharov Prize for human rights.

The letter calls on the UK government to hammer the message home that Turkey must honour its commitments under the Copenhagen Criteria if it is to join the European Union. Freedom of speech and association are universal human rights, and must be respected as such.


Read more on Leyla Zana HERE, and on the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign HERE


Human Rights, Zimbabwe

Yet another plus for human dynamo, President Obama. Tackling Zimbabwe really should have been higher on the West’s political agenda. Thankfully the new President of the United States understands that something needs to be done and has wasted no time in taking up the cudgels.

I am constantly amazed that the people of Zimbabwe are managing to survive. How does a country manage to exist when an economy has collapsed? How do people cope with the outbreaks of virulent disease suffered by Zimbabweans? Zimbabwe is not just another failed state. It is a disaster of truly massive proportions.

This disaster has been caused by one man. Robert Mugabe has allowed his own megalomania to destroy his country and reduce his people to inhumane levels of suffering, the like of which we can hardly imagine.

This article from yesterday’s “Times” provides a harrowing report of just one small part of what is going on.

According a report in today’s “Times” from Tim Reid in Washington and Jonathan Clayton in Johannesburg, President Obama wants a fresh approach to toppling Robert Mugabe and is discussing with aides an unprecedented, US-led diplomatic push to get tough new UN sanctions imposed against the Zimbabwe regime.

The idea is to take the issue of Zimbabwe before the UN Security Council, having prepared the ground with Russia and China to persuade them to support the initiative. Neither country has supported previous moves against Zimbabwe, and both have significant financial interests in the country. The goal of taking Zimbabwe to the Security Council will be to pass strong sanctions, including a ban on arms sales.

In addition, the US and Britain are apparently anxious that Mr Tsvangirai does not sign up to a power-sharing deal. Failure to reach an accord would help clear the way to take the issue back to the UN.

All of this sounds very good. I for one have no faith in another attempt at any kind of deal with Mugabe. Tsvangirai has already tried that one and Mugabe would have none of it.

I wish Obama and his allies all success in their attempts to restore civilisation to Zimbabwe and end the appalling suffering across the whole of that unfortunate country, a country in thrall to one of the worst dictators we have seen for a long time.