Do people really have different views of violence against women?
Strong voice against violence: Martine Levy © Florent Catteau
Yes, there is an entire range of interpretations of the term violence. And that is precisely what is unacceptable. Measures must be put in place to allow all forms of violence – from trafficking to female genital mutilation – to be tackled. The main point to be acknowledged is that women are not responsible for the violence.
So, everything is to be allowed – or forbidden – equally everywhere ?
Neither nor. We don't actually want jurisdiction and legislation to be identical everywhere. After all, European directives always provide the opportunity of adapting it to the country's own laws and implementing the provisions within the country's legal structures. But the common definition should set down the parameters for what constitutes violence against women and so result in coordinated action. Unfortunately, the ideas are still very diverse in this area so that there are difficult negotiations ahead.
Maybe it won't be possible to find a common definition for 27 countries?
Everything is always possible. Life teaches us that ...
Why is a European directive actually so important?
Because that will be most effective. Because it is only once you get to that level that you are far enough removed from consequences and can focus totally on the issue. Just think how large a role trafficking plays in the economy or how fundamental an issue the free practice of traditions is for some population groups – however degrading they might be, such as genital mutilation. A national government can often not afford to proceed as strongly as might be necessary. This requires the EU to dictate a strong line, which can be derived clearly from the joint commitment to fundamental human rights for all to see.
And if no joint decision can be reached in the end?
Then it is up to the individual states to take action. Of course this might result in more far-reaching provisions being made than might ever have been possible at a joint European level. But one would then also have to accept that different standards apply within Europe, and that some people are exploited here and thereby robbed of their fundamental rights.
Can you give us an example?
How should cross-border trafficking be fought, for instance? Each year, some 250,000 people are traded in Europe like slaves; people trafficking in Europe is almost as large a source of finance as the drug trade. And we don't want to do anything against that?