European & International News

The European Parliament adopts a strong report on the EU accession to the Istanbul Convention

[Brussels, 29 September 2017] The European Women’s Lobby welcomes the adoption of a key European Parliament resolution on the EU accession to the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Passing with a large majority of 489 votes to 114 with 69 abstentions, it is encouraging to see such a robust message on the EU’s commitment to combat against violence against women and girls. Our member Barbara Cleary, representative of the UK Joint Committee on Women echoes our sentiments as she states, “In the UK, we welcome the momentum for change at the European Parliament and in the member states. We are happy with the success thus far and hope to reach ratification soon. Ratification of the Istanbul Convention is essential on our pathway to change and ending violence against women and girls”.

The adoption of this report comes shortly after our EWL Loud & United international conference and demonstration in June where we marked 20 years of action by the EWL’s Observatory on violence against women and girls. The two EP rapporteurs, Ms Corazza Bildt (EPP, Sweden, FEMM Committee) and Ms Christine Revault D’Allonnes Bonnefoy (S&D, France, LIBE Committee), took part at the event and explained their key political vision for a Europe where women and girls can live a life free of violence. The adoption of the resolution also follows the publication of our comprehensive factsheet, “Disrupting the Continuum of Violence against Women and Girls”, which provides figures, examples of campaigns and stories that illustrate the reality of violence against women and girls in Europe.

The resolution adopted in the European Parliament is very comprehensive and has a strong feminist perspective on the issue of violence against women and girls and sexual and reproductive health and rights. We are pleased to see that the some key amendments that we developed alongside our partners in the European Coalition to end violence against women and girlshave been included in the text of the report. These include considering violence against women and girls as a human rights violation and the definition of violence against women and girls as a form of discrimination and as a direct consequence of gender inequalities.

The report similarly acknowledges that women across the EU are unequally protected due to the lack of EU strategy on violence and the existence of differing policies and legislation across Member States. The report also recognises that some groups of women and girls, such as migrant women, women refugees and asylum seekers, women and girls with disabilities, LBTI women and Roma women, are at risk of multiple discrimination and are therefore even more vulnerable to violence. Our member Anna Zobnina, Political Coordinator of the European Network of Migrant Women emphasises this by stating: "Every woman, regardless of her ethnic, legal and economic status, knows what Male Violence against Women is. But not every woman has the same degree of protection under the law. Some do not have it at all. The Istanbul Convention is one tool that has the potential to provide such protection to all females. This is why it is of utmost importance that the EU and each member state ratifies it in its full scope and without any reservations.”

The EWL highly welcomes the strong demands of the EP resolution on the EU accession to the Istanbul Convention at both EU and National level and we hope to see a positive response to these recommendations by the EU member States. The resolution highlights that as the most comprehensive convention on violence against women and girls, it is critical that all EU member states and the EU ratify and implement the convention. This includes a call for Member states to swiftly agree on a code of conduct and the EU ratification, in the framework of the Council negotiations. More than 100,000 citizens are also calling the Council of the EU to make Europe a safe place for all women and girls! They call Member States to urgently ratify and implement broadly the Council of Europe convention to fight violence against women at EU level. Sign this petition here.

The European Parliament resolution also calls for the Commission to initiate a constructive dialogue with the Council and member states to address reservations and objection expressed by member states in regards to ratification, which is of vital importance. Alongside the EWL, our member Clara Berglund, Secretary General, Swedish Women’s Lobby supports this call, “The Istanbul Convention is an important instrument to ensure women’s right to their own bodies and to shift the blame from victims to perpetrators. Now it is time for member states to keep their promise to end men’s violence against women by implementing legislative acts in line with the Convention”.

The text includes a number of the European Women’s Lobby’s longstanding demands for action to the EU, as for example the need for a further legislative act at EU level; a comprehensive EU Strategy to end violence against women and girls; and the appointment of an EU Coordinator who would be responsible for the coordination, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and measures to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women and girls. We are encouraged by the European Parliament commitment to ensure their full engagement within a monitoring framework and highlights the importance of civil society organisations, especially Women’s rights organisations, in the monitoring process.

Furthermore the Resolution calls on Member States to allocate adequate financial and human resources to prevent and combat violence against women at national level. Our member Laura Albu, President of the Romanian Women’s Lobby emphasises this as she states, “As one of the 14 EU countries which already ratified the Convention, I think that Romania should start allocating immediately financial and human resources to prevent and combat violence against women. For our society, allocation of enough resources should be doubled by promotion of change in attitudes, stop blaming victims and start focus more on perpetrators.”

The report stresses that sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are human rights and that the “denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights services, including safe and legal abortion, is a form of violence against women and girls”. It calls for member states to provide comprehensive sexuality education and full access to SRHR services.

The present obstacles preventing ratification by all member states and the EU must be addressed; there is still much to be done in working towards ending violence against women and girls as 14 EU member states are yet to ratify the Istanbul Convention. The EWL emphasises our demands that we believe are crucial to achieving in the fight to end violence against women and girls.

EWL political demands are:

  • The recognition, by the EU and its Member States, of all forms of male violence against women as part of a continuum of violence against women because they are women;
  • The ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention by the EU and all EU member states;
  • An EU strategy and directive criminalising all forms of male violence against women and girls, and providing assistance and support to all women and girls victims;
  • An EU coordinator to end violence against women and girls, within the umbrella of the European Commission’s work on equality between women and men;
  • Systematic consultation of and sustainable funding for women’s organisations providing support to women and girls victims, and developing advocacy and awareness raising campaigns, at EU, national and local levels.

Find more information here:
European Parliament Press Release on adoption of the report
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20170912IPR83785/meps-call-for-zero-tolerance-for-violence-against-women

Press Release by S&D Group on European Parliament Report http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/sds-call-commission-make-sure-eu-countries-implement-istanbul-convention-end-violence Press Release by GUE Group on European Parliament Report http://www.guengl.eu/news/article/eu-accedes-to-istanbul-convention-now-we-need-an-eu-directive-to-implement]

Press Release by S&D Group on European Parliament Report
http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/sds-call-commission-make-sure-eu-countries-implement-istanbul-convention-end-violence

Press Release by GUE Group on European Parliament Report
http://www.guengl.eu/news/article/eu-accedes-to-istanbul-convention-now-we-need-an-eu-directive-to-implement

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Loud and United to end violence against women and girls, European Women’s Lobby Conference, 6 December 2017, Brussels.

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