Legal Definitions in the EU Member States
This resource includes the legal definitions of different types of gender-based violence used in EU Member States, according to their legal terminology and national legislation. It was last updated in 2019 and makes a reference to the United Kingdom as a member state of the European Union.
FinlandViolence, JusticeSexual Harassment
Verbal, non-verbal and physical, unwelcome and sexual behaviour that either has a purpose of violating or in fact violates another person’s mental or physical integrity, especially by creating a threatening, hostile, intimidating or oppressive environmentLegal Source:
FinlandViolence, JusticeStalkingLegal provisions on protection orders:
The basic restraining order prohibits the assailant from approaching or taking contact with the person he has threatened. Also stalking or attempt to take contact is punishable.
SwedenViolence, JusticeIntimate Partner Violence
Violence where the perpetrator and the victim have or have had an intimate relation.Observations
Special laws: Gross violation of women’s integrity: repeated violence within a marriage/love relation or other close relationship. If a person commits an offence falling under the provisions of chapters dealing with crimes against life and health, crimes against liberty and peace and sexual crimes against a partner with whom the offender has a close relationship or used to have a close relationship. Each of the acts must have been part of a repeated violation of the vulnerable person’s privacy and integrity and also have been likely to cause serious harm to the persons self-esteemLegal Source:
Criminal Code, Chapter 4, Section 4aLegal provisions on protection orders:
The prohibition of Visits Act: “if there is a risk that a person will commit a crime against another, or that he will maliciously follow a person, a restraining order can be issued against them.”
When someone, by assault or otherwise with violence or by the threat of a criminal act, compels a person to have sexual intercourse or a comparable sexual act.Observations
Rape may also be committed when the victim has not been compelled, but the perpetrator has improperly exploited the fact that a person is in a helpless state, owing to, for instance, unconsciousness, sleep, intoxication or other influence of drugs, illness, bodily injury or mental impairment.Legal Source:
Criminal Code, Chapter 6, Section 1.
SwedenViolence, JusticeSexual Assault (excl. rape)
"Sexual coercion" applies when the preconditions for rape are not satisfied:
- "Sexual molestation" means exposing oneself to another in such a way that is likely to cause offence or otherwise behaving indecently by word or deed in a way that is likely to violate that person’s sexual integrity
- "Sexual abuse" means using a person’s dependence of one, to make the person do or support something sexual.
Criminal Code, Chapter 6, Sections 2, 3 and 10
SwedenViolence, JusticeSexual Harassment
Conduct of a sexual nature in working life that violates the dignity of a job seeker or an employer. Also applies to schools and university colleges.Observations
The law regulates the employers’ responsibility of preventing and taking action against sexual harassment, rather than the act itself.Legal Source:
Discrimination Act, Chapter 1, Section 4 and Chapter 2, Section 3
Criminal acts which are repeated by the same perpetrator against the same victim. The crimes must aim at violating the integrity of the victim and must be one of the following: assault and battery causing actual bodily harm, illegal threat, illegal coercion, illegal encroachment, sexual molestation, damage or intent to damage, or disrespect to prohibition of visits act.Legal Source:
Criminal Code, Chapter 4, Section 4b
Non EU countriesViolence, JusticeIntimate Partner Violence
Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.Legal Source:
The Domestic Violence (Crime and Victims) Act 2004 (strengthens protection orders by making breach of an order a criminal offence and, by virtue of Section 12 of the Act, extended the powers of courts to impose orders on perpetrators under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, regardless of any conviction for an offence)Legal provisions on protection orders:
Domestic Violence Protection Notice and Domestic Violence Prevention Order
Non EU countriesViolence, JusticeRape
Person A commits an offence if (a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person B with his penis, (b) B does not consent to the penetration, and (c) A does not reasonably believe that B consents.Observations
In Scotland, the legal provision for rape can be found in the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.Legal Source:
Sexual Offences Act 2003, Section 1.
Non EU countriesViolence, JusticeSexual Assault (excl. rape)
"Sexual assault" is the sexual touching of a person without their consent:
- Person A commits an offence if (a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina or anus of another person 'B‘ with a part of his body or anything else, (b) the penetration is sexual, (c) B does not consent to the penetration and (d) A does not reasonably believe that B consents.
- Person A commits an offence if (a) he intentionally touches another person B, (b) the touching is sexual, (c) the person does not consent to the touching and (d) A does not reasonably believe that Bconsents.
Scotland: Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009
Northern Ireland: Sexual Offenses (Northern Ireland) Order 2008Legal Source:
Sexual Offences Act 2003 UK, Section 2 and 3Legal provisions on protection orders:
Sexual offences prevention orders: These orders are civil behaviour orders or ‘preventive orders’ imposed upon conviction (‘post-conviction orders’) or upon complaint (‘stand-alone orders’). A Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) is a civil order created by the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to replace Restraining Orders and Sex Offender Orders available through the Sex Offenders Act 1997. An order may be made against any ‘qualifying offender’ defined by section 106(5).
Non EU countriesViolence, JusticeSexual Harassment
Person (A) harasses another (B) if (a) A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and(b) the conduct has the purpose or effect of (i) violating B's dignity, or(ii) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B. A also harasses B if (a) A engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, and(b) the conduct has the purpose or effect referred to in subsection (1)(b).Observations
UK law distinguishes between gender harassment (art 26 sub 1 (j. sub 5 “sex”) and sexual harassment (section 26 sub 2).
The relevant protected characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.Legal Source:
Equality Act 2010,Section 26ALegal provisions on protection orders:
Sexual Offences Prevention Order [SOPO] (or Interim SOPO made on application by police) and Risk of Sexual Harm Order [RSHO]
Non EU countriesViolence, JusticeStalking
Stalking is a term used to describe a particular kind of harassment. Generally, it is used to describe a long-term pattern of persistent and repeated contact with, or attempts to contact, a particular victim.Whilst there is no strict legal definition of 'stalking', section 2A (3) of the PHA 1997 sets out examples of acts or omissions which, in particular circumstances, are ones associated with stalking:a) following a person;b) contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means;c) publishing any statement or other material, i. relating or purporting to relate to a person, or ii. purporting to originate from a person;d) monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication;e) loitering in any place (whether public or private);f) interfering with any property in the possession of a person;g) watching or spying on a person.Observations
Currently the law is slightly different in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but what is important is that stalking is against the law across the UK.
- Northern Ireland: current legislation in Northern Ireland already allows for prosecutions in relation to what is known as stalking. Prosecutions can be brought under harassment legislation for a number of offences.
- Scotland: theCriminal Justice and Licensing Actwas passed on June 30th 2010 and came into effect on December 13th 2010. Section 39 of this Act makes stalking a criminal offence.
Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA), and Section 2A and 4A as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.S125(2) of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005Legal provisions on protection orders:
Victims may apply for civil injunctions under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Section 3, to prevent stalking. Under theProtection from HarassmentAct, Section 5: a court sentencing someone convicted of any offence may also impose a restraining order prohibiting specified forms of behaviour which cause harassment or a fear of violence. Section 5A allows a court to make restraining orders in cases where there has been an acquittal, or a conviction has been overturned on appeal, but the court considers that an order is necessary to protect a person from harassment. Breach of a restraining order is a criminal offence punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine.
Northern Ireland: The Protection from Harassment (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 allows for the general offence of harassment and the offence of putting someone in fear of violence.