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).


Boris Johnson, London, violence, Women's Rights

True to Tory form Boris Johnson has reneged on his explicit promise to ‘act immediately’ to put more funding into rape crisis centres in the capital.

The Mayor’s manifesto said “We will act immediately to provide longterm funding for four Rape Crisis Centres in London…To secure the funding for this centre and three others would require ringfencing of around £744,000 annually.”

But yesterday betraying  Boris said funding for the three new centres would not be found in his budget.


As Boris might look if women's rights campaigners got a good shot

Artist's impression of how Boris might look if women's rights campaigners got a good shot at him

Rumours that funding for these centres might not be found have been circulating for some time. As a woman living in London I am deeply frustrated by Boris’ distinct lack of commitment to women in the captital. This, he has clearly demonstrated throughout his time in office – deleting the post of women’s advisor, cutting funding for Capital Women and producing an extremely shoddy report on Women in London 2009 in which he carelessly spells the name of Kids Company charity chief Camilla Batmanjella [sic], rather than its correct spelling of Batmanghelidjh. You would have thought even he could spell his supposed ‘hero’s names correctly?

Thankfully, the press are now finally waking up to Boris’ bad behaviour:

Boris ‘betrayal’ as he breaks his promise

The strong words from Assembly Members Joanne McCartney and Jenny Jones should be heeded by the Mayor. Reneging on election promises is never acceptable, but most especially when it is for desperately needed services such as Rape Crisis Centres.


Back in the good old days...Joanne McCartney and Ken Livingstone standing up for womens rights in the capital

Back in the good old days...Joanne McCartney and Ken Livingstone standing up for women's rights in the capital

At his previous people’s question time in March Boris promised to make his next one about women. Women of London need to attend this on mass – we need to hold this bumbling betraying mayor to account. Click here to register to attend.



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.


United Nations, violence
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The day was established by the UN in 1999 and was chosen to be on 25th November as it was on this day in 1960 that three Dominican sisters were murdered for campaigning against the dictator Rafael Trujillo.

Women’s rights have progressed in the Dominican Republic and countless other countries since 1960. This is thanks to the leadership of the UN and other international organisations, not to mention the thousands of women – and men – on the ground who selflessly devote their lives to standing up for the rights of their sisters. But there is still a long way to go.

Just last week I co-signed a letter to the Nicaraguan ambassador to Brussels, written by my colleague on the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, urging him to respect the human rights of women’s rights activists in Nicaragua. In Nicaragua, a country where abortion is illegal in every instance, including when the life of the mother is at risk, women’s rights defenders have faced physical harassment and intimidation by the government.

This is just one example of women still facing violence and harassment purely because they are women. It is clear that, on this day especially, we must ensure that we all continue to work to eliminate the horror of gender-based violence.


Crime, girls, Melanie Phillips, violence

Crime is indefensible. Committing crime is wrong and offenders must be brought to book in whatever way is appropriate for the crime they committed, the way we view that crime and the various rules and regulations about sentencing convicted offenders. I would never agree to any criminal being given an easy rise. Having spent some time in the Probation Service before becoming an MEP, I have seen the effects of crime first hand.

It is not possible to gloss over the increase in crime, particularly violent crime, amongst young women. Crime by young women and girls has risen by 25 percent. According to a report from the Youth Justice Board the number of crimes committed by girls aged ten to 17 climbed from 47,000 to 59,000 between 2003-4 and 2006-7. The figure for boys over the same period went down slightly from 240,000 to 236,000.

The proportional rise in female crime while that for young men has decreased is worrying. Predictably the Daily Mail’s resident siren anti-woman, anti-Labour voice, Melanie Phillips, has waded in, ranting on 12 May, “As a result of the feminist revolution, women have commandeered the freedoms and entitlements of the masculine world – while men themselves have now been largely reduced to sperm banks, walking wallets and occasional au pairs.”

Notwithstanding the arrant nonsense of Ms Phillips’s last couple of lines, her main contention – that feminism has made women more like men – needs addressing. There is no doubt that there has been a convergence between male and female behaviour. Young women now outperform young men at school. Women enter the labour market in much the same way as men. Equal pay legislation and improved childcare have allowed women to develop their careers, although more still needs to be done.

All this has helped our economy as well as providing fulfilment for women. Both men and women who are from generations younger than Ms Phillips’s baby boomers, take women’s participation in the world of work as a given. I doubt they would want women to stay at home tied to the kitchen sink as Ms Phillips hints at another point in her article, even if they could afford it. Interestingly Melanie Phillips herself earns a decent crust, presumably unencumbered by outdated notions of a woman’s place.

Now that women go to work and may take part in our society more or less on a par with men, we are finding that there is a downside – female crime is going up. This is obviously not desirable and we must all work to reduce crime. The Daily Mail blaming modern feminism does nothing to help.