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Sexual violence: introducing the 'no means no' principle in criminal codes

The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination today strongly condemned sexual violence and harassment of women in public space, pointing out that this was a problem affecting all countries.

“But such violence is not unavoidable,” said Françoise Hetto-Gaasch (Luxembourg, EPP/CD), who will be presenting her report on this issue at the next plenary session in Strasbourg (26-30 June 2017).

“Women should not have to change their lifestyle because of the risk of harassment and sexual violence or be accused of being provocatively dressed or being in the wrong place at a late hour. Women are never responsible for the violence of which they are victims, no matter the perpetrator, the type of violence or the location where it takes place,” she added.

“The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention) makes victims of violence the focus of any policy or discourse dealing with gender-based violence. And it is to date the most advanced international legal instrument with regard to combating all forms of violence against women,” she said.

In the draft resolution, adopted unanimously, the Committee therefore calls on all countries that have not yet done so, to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention and to ensure its full implementation. “This presupposes the inclusion of sexual violence and harassment in public space in national criminal codes so as to firmly establish the principle of “no means no” in criminal law.”

The draft resolution also contains a series of specific measures encompassing the role of the media, awareness-raising campaigns, the prosecution of perpetrators, and the creation of “welcoming” towns and cities, by taking into account the gender dimension in urban planning and in public transport so as to ensure the security and well-being of everyone.