Yesterday June 13 2017 the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová signed The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. This is the second international treaty that is signed by European Commission and it is signed in Strasbourg in the presence of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, M. Thorbjørn Jagland.
Victim Support Europe and our members are thrilled by this act and we are welcoming the signing of the convention as an excellent move of the European Commission since combating violence against women is one of the European Commission’s priorities for 2017.
The Istanbul Convention is the first legally-binding instrument which “creates a comprehensive legal framework and approach to combat violence against women” and is focused on preventing domestic violence, protecting victims and prosecuting accused offenders. It characterizes violence against women as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination (Art.3(a)). Countries should exercise due diligence when preventing violence, protecting victims and prosecuting perpetrators (Art. 5). The Convention also contains a definition of gender: for the purpose of the Convention gender is defined in Article 3(c) as “the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men”. Moreover, the treaty establishes a series of offences characterized as violence against women. States which ratify the Convention must criminalize several offences, including: psychological violence (Art.33); stalking (Art.34); physical violence (Art.35); sexual violence, including rape, explicitly covering all engagement in non-consensual acts of a sexual nature with a person (Art.36), forced marriage (Art.37); female genital mutilation (Art.38), forced abortion and forced sterilisation (Art.39). The Convention states that sexual harassment must be subject to “criminal or other legal sanction” (Art. 40). The Convention also includes an article targeting crimes committed in the name of so-called “honour” (Art. 42)
Having in mind that the EU ratification of the first international treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, resulted with number of measures like EU disability strategy, accessibility act and the fact that in the process of CRPD review the EU was scrutinised for the first time by international human rights body, we are hoping that this signing and soon ratification of the Istanbul Convention will also result in concrete direct actions by the EU and future legislation improvements in order to develop and strengthen the prevention, prosecution and elimination of violence against women and girls and domestic violence .
As a next step, the EU will now proceed with the conclusion of the Convention and one of the first actions that is in accordance with the signing is the Commission’s 2017 year-long campaign to raise awareness of all forms of violence towards women, which already started and it is using the hashtag #SayNoStopVAW on social media.