In today’s crisis-stricken Europe, seven women on average die every day as a result of male violence. Almost every woman suffers some kind of violence during her lifetime, one in five is a victim of domestic violence and sexual harassment at the workplace, while one in ten is a victim of sexual violence. According to the UN, 80% of victims of violence are women, and 85% of the victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation are likewise women.

According to a comparative study by the EWL Observatory, many Member States suffer from a lack of specialised courts and judges, police personnel and healthcare staff and procedures are time-consuming, so that only 2% of abused women report that they have been victims of violence.
In view of the above, will the Commission say:

— What stage has been reached in the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence?
— Are there any plans for the harmonisation of the laws of the Member States and the codification of European legislation to strengthen structures to combat violence against women? If so, what stage have they reached?
— Has any provision been made to adopt legislation to punish the users/clients of prostitutes, as has occurred in some Member States?

Answer given by Ms Jourová on behalf of the Commission

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence represents a valuable legal and policy framework to effectively combat violence against women at national and European levels. National ratifications have progressed rapidly: so far 8 EU Member States have ratified the Convention. Furthermore, the Commission is examining the legal, policy and practical implications of a possible EU accession. Though most of the provisions of the Convention fall under national or mixed competence, some areas are of exclusive EU competence, in particular those on asylum and migration. Based on the analysis of the implications, the Commission may propose the EU accession to it.

The EU has adopted legislation to prevent violence and support victims: on sexual harassment(1); on trafficking in human beings(2); against the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography(3); on the European Protection Orders(4); and on the rights of crime victims(5). The Commission is now actively monitoring and guiding Member States in implementing this legislation. Considering the limits of EU competence, including clear restrictions to harmonising criminal law in this area, the Commission has at present no plans for proposing further EU legislation.

Regulating prostitution policies is a Member State competence. The Commission has competence only when prostitution relates to trafficking in human beings. Under Directive 2011/36/EU(6) the Commission will examine by 2016 the impact of measures for criminalising those who knowingly use the services of victims of trafficking, accompanied if necessary by adequate proposals.

(4) and