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EU adopts first law devoted to tackling violence against women

The sweeping law aims to protect women in the 27-nation EU from gender-based violence, forced marriages, female genital mutilation and online harassment.

EUBRUSSELS: European Union countries on Tuesday backed the bloc’s first law devoted to combatting violence against women, although the text controversially failed to settle on a common definition of rape.

The sweeping law aims to protect women in the 27-nation EU from gender-based violence, forced marriages, female genital mutilation and online harassment.

The European Parliament already approved the rules in April and the countries’ green light was the last step before it becomes law.

“This law will guarantee EU-wide that its perpetrators will be strongly sanctioned and that its victims will receive all the support they need,” said Belgium justice minister, Paul Van Tigchelt.

The law criminalises cyber stalking, cyber harassment and cyber incitement to hatred or violence across the EU. It sets minimum sentences, ranging from one year to five years in prison, depending on the crime.

Under the rules, if the victim is a child, spouse or ex-spouse, the punishment can be more severe.

While there had been unanimous agreement on the law’s importance, the inclusion of an EU-wide definition of rape was a source of contention during negotiations.

The bloc was split between countries including Italy and Greece who wanted a definition of rape, against nations like France and Germany who opposed its inclusion, arguing the EU did not have competence in the matter.

Spain’s equality minister Ana Redondo admitted she would have preferred the rules “to be a little more ambitious” ahead of a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday.

But she said the law was a “a good starting point”.

EU states must transpose the rules into national law within three years.

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