MEPs have backed a report by the Women's Rights Committee that urges tougher sentences for people convicted of rape and other sex crimes.
Opening the debate on 4 April 2011, the committee chair Eva-Britt Svensson said "for as long as there is violence against women we are not living in a real democracy".
The report says that rape and other forms of sexual violence should be recognised as crimes in all EU countries and lead to automatic prosecution.
It highlights that different countries have different rules and that rape does not lead to automatic prosecution in some member states.
MEPs on the committee have called for an EU criminal law instrument against gender based violence to be introduced.
Concerns over prostitution
Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said the Commission was making combating violence against women a top priority and said a new package of measures would be published next month.
She said women who suffer domestic violence said there was no EU "minimum level" of prosecution, but said she wanted to increase access to "justice and compensation".
Although the report had broad cross-party support, Dutch green MEP Marije Cornelissen raised concerns over the inclusion of prostitution in the report.
She said that unless a distinction was made between forced and voluntary prostitution was made, she and many of her colleagues would abstain.
The report was formally adopted by a show of hands during the daily
on 5 April 2011.
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