Europe’s rights watchdog calls on Poland to change definition of rape

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Protesters attend a protest against a ruling restricting abortion rights in Warsaw, Poland on January 29, 2021. REUTERS / Aleksandra Szmigiel / File Photo

BRUSSELS, Sept. 16 (Reuters) – Poland must change its legal definition of rape to better protect women, Europe’s leading rights watchdog said on Thursday in the latest challenge to ruling nationalists over human rights and democratic values.

Despite mass protests, the government led by the socially conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party has tightened already restrictive anti-abortion laws in the European Union member state, introducing a de facto ban on terminating pregnancies . Read more

The Council of Europe said Warsaw should step up efforts to tackle sexual violence, including changing the definition of rape to “move from a definition based on force to a definition covering all non-consensual sexual acts” .

“Without a consent-based definition of rape in criminal law, prosecutors will invariably decide not to seek charges in cases where the sexual act is unchallenged, but consent is not,” he said. he said in a statement.

Poland should also improve emergency care and services for victims of sexual violence, better train police and medical personnel as first responders in rape cases and intensify dialogue between the state and human rights defenders. women’s rights, he said.

The declaration is part of a review of how countries are implementing the 2014 Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women. Of the 17 states analyzed so far, only three – Belgium, Malta and Sweden – sanction sexual violence solely on the grounds of lack of consent.

Six of the 27 EU Member States have not ratified the convention: Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania.

Women’s rights are one of the many areas where Warsaw is at odds with the EU, where the European Commission executive has the power to withhold funding to countries that undermine democratic rights and values. Read more

The Commission also challenged Poland over lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender rights, and gave Warsaw until Wednesday to respond to criticism of a decision by some Polish communities to declare themselves “LGBT-free”.

The Ministry of Family and Social Policy dismissed the Commission’s concerns that such a designation amounted to discrimination, saying in a statement on Wednesday that it did not legally limit the right of all people to live there or to work there.

Warsaw said it would close the gaps if the self-proclaimed “LGBT-free” areas lost EU funding.

The ministry also said procedures were in place to protect against discrimination in EU-funded projects and were conducted in accordance with EU laws.

A Commission spokesperson said Poland’s response was being analyzed. If he finds the reasoning wrong, he can tell Poland to make amends or sue Warsaw in the EU’s highest court.

Report by Gabriela Baczynska

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