Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women (Istanbul Convention) (2014)
Istanbul Convention as a Principal Legal Instrument in the Combat with Violence Against Women in the European States
Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) is a fundamental legally binding instrument in Europe, providing principles and specific measures for combating violence against women and domestic violence. It was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE) on 7 April 2011 and entered into force on 1 August 2014. The Convention fills a significant gap in the human rights protection for women in Europe and frames the elimination of violence against women in the wider context of achieving substantive gender equality. It also reinforces international actions to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence on global level.
Violence against women is a common, worldwide phenomenon: it takes place in different societies irrespective of their political system, socioeconomic situation, ideology, or religion. According to the data provided by the United Nations Secretary-General, covering years 2005–2016, for 87 countries, 19% of women between 15 and 49 years of age said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to the survey. In the most extreme cases, such violence can lead to death. In 2012, almost half of all women who were victims of intentional homicide worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to 6% of male victims. Around 2000, nearly one in three women between 20 and 24 years of age reported that they were married before 18 years of age. Around 2015, the ratio was just over one in four. The decline was driven by a reduction in the marriage rate among girls under 15 years of age during that period. The harmful practice of female genital mutilation/cutting has declined by 24% since around 2000. Nevertheless, prevalence remains high in some of the 30 countries with representative data. In those countries, survey data from around 2015 indicate that more than one in three girls between 15 and 19 years of age have undergone the procedure (UN Secretary General Report on Progress towards Sustainable Developments Goals 2017). Also in Europe violence against women, including domestic violence, is considered one of the most serious forms of gender-based violations of human rights “still shrouded in silence,” similarly as domestic violence against other victims such as children, men, and the elderly (Explanatory Report 2011).
Gender equality and women’s empowerment have been established as some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). For their realization it is crucial, among other things, to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation, as well as other harmful practices such as child, early marriages and female genital mutilation. Only complete eradication of these manifestations of male domination can allow for establishing the genuine gender equality, and that contribute to realization of all SDGs.
To prevent and eliminate the violence against women, it is necessary to use all the instruments available. Although a number of social and political initiatives have been undertaken by international organizations, NGOs, and civil society that have already resulted in the development of important standards, the progress still cannot be considered sufficient and satisfactory.
Therefore, it is crucial to advance with legal obligations. There is a little probability that a universally binding treaty on the violence against women be adopted in the nearest future (McQuigg 2017; Manjoo and Jones 2018). This, together with the CoE approach requiring dealing with the issue more comprehensively, has been the foundation for the adoption of the Istanbul Convention.
The principal goal of the Convention is the creation of Europe free from violence against women and domestic violence (the Preamble to the Convention). The Convention is based on the observation made already in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993) that the violence against women has structural nature and it is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between women and men. It is also noted that violence against women and domestic violence are complex phenomena, and therefore it is necessary to use a variety of approaches in combination with each other to understand them.
These are just last 30 years when violence against women started to be considered a human right issue that requires international response. Earlier it had been treated as “a private matter” with regulations on the issue left to the states. It is sufficient to mention that the main international agreement on the rights of women that is the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW Convention 1979) does not contain any explicit provision relating to violence against women.
However, since 1990 the issue has started to be present in the agenda of various international bodies as the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, UN Economic and Social Council and Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and CEDAW Committee.
CEDAW Committee in 1989 adopted General recommendation 12 on violence against women followed by General recommendation 14 on female circumcision (1990) and General recommendation 19 also on violence against women (1992). The Vienna Declaration and Programme for Action presented gender-based violence as structural and universal (Vienna Declaration and Programme for Action 1993). In the same year, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women – the first international instrument that solely concerns violence against women. With the following years, detailed recommendations for action on violence against women have been developed in intergovernmental agreements, such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and in reports, studies, and guidelines by United Nations bodies, agencies and mechanisms, academics, and NGOs. However, significant gaps have remained in their effective implementation (In-Depth Study 2006).
Also, a normative gap in the protection of the women against violence exists on universal level, with no universally binding treaty on this issue. But it should be underlined that the UN Special Rapporteur on the Violence Against Women has identified a norm of customary international law, which obliges states to prevent and react on the acts of violence against women with due diligence (Special Rapporteur Report 2006).
Regional Level (Outside Europe)
As mentioned above, there is no universal treaty on the prevention and elimination of the violence against women. However, there are regional binding agreements on this issue also outside Europe: the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (“Convention of Belem do Para”) of 1994 (Belem do Para Convention 1994) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa of 2003 (Maputo Protocol 2003). It is also worth to mention the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution of 1997 (South Asia Convention on Combating Trafficking 1997). These regional solutions establish regional mechanisms, including monitoring bodies, to prevent and eliminate such violence.
Council of Europe Activities
CoE since 1990 has undertaken number of steps in the promotion of the protection of women against violence. It is clear that violence against women, including domestic violence, undermines the core values on which this Organization is based (Explanatory Report 2011). In 2002 Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation Rec(2002)5 on the protection of women against violence. It has proposed a comprehensive strategy for the prevention of violence against women and the protection of victims in CoE member states. Its implementation is regularly monitored to evaluate progress. In 2007 Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)17 on gender equality standards and mechanisms was passed. Vital role has been played also by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which sets important standards in the field of violence against women. Also, the CoE Parliamentary Assembly participated in the development of the organization standards against all forms of violence against women. It has adopted a number of resolutions and recommendations in this area, e.g., Resolution 1247 (2001) on female genital mutilation, Resolution 1582 (2002) on domestic violence, Resolution 1327 (2003) on so-called honor crimes, Recommendation 1723 (2005) on forced marriages and child marriages, Recommendation 1777 (2007) on sexual assaults linked to “date-rape drugs,” Resolution 1654 (2009) on Feminicides, and Resolution 1691 (2009) on rape of women, including marital rape.
In December 2008, the Committee of Ministers set up an expert group – Ad Hoc Committee – for preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (CAHVIO) with a mandate to prepare a draft convention in this field.
The final draft of the convention was produced in December 2010.
The Convention was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 7 April 2011 and opened for signature on 11 May 2011. The treaty entered into force on 1 August 2014, Andorra being the 10th ratifying state. As for 8 July 2018, the Convention is ratified by 32 states (Greece joining it on 18 June 2018) and the European Union.
The Convention is composed of preamble and 81 Articles organized in XII Chapters.
Chapter I “Purposes, definitions, Equality and Non-discrimination, General Obligations” presents the purposes, definitions, and general obligations of states. Chapters from II to VI contain material obligations of states relating to different areas of activity: integrated policies and data collection (Chapter II “Integrated Policies and Data Collection”), prevention (Chapter III “Prevention”), protection and support (Chapter IV “Protection and Support”), substantive law (Chapter V “Substantive Law”), investigation, prosecution, procedural law, and protective measures (Chapter VI “Investigation, Prosecution, Procedural Law and Protective Measures”). Separate chapter (VII “Migration and Asylum”) deals with migrant victims of gender-based violence. Chapter VIII “International Co-operation” contains the provisions on international cooperation. Chapter IX “Monitoring Mechanism” frames monitoring mechanism. Chapter X “Relationship with Other International Instruments” describes the relation of the Convention with other international agreements. Chapters XI “Amendments to the Convention” and XII “Final Clauses” contain final provisions dealing with, i.e., amendments, dispute settlement, territorial application, and reservations.
Aims, Scope, and General Obligations of State Parties
To protect women against all forms of violence and prevent, prosecute, and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence
To contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and promote substantive equality between women and men, including by empowering women
To design a comprehensive framework, policies, and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of violence against women and domestic violence
To promote international cooperation with a view to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence
To provide support and assistance to organizations and law enforcement agencies to effectively cooperate in order to adopt an integrated approach to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence
The Convention applies to all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence. State parties “are encouraged to apply this Convention to all victims of domestic violence” but with paying “particular attention to women victims of gender-based violence in implementing the provisions of this Convention.” It is clear that the primary goal of the Convention is fighting with violence against women.
The Convention is applicable both in times of peace and in situations of armed conflict. Including this provision in a treaty is important as generally human rights treaties do not contain such a regulation, what sometimes constitutes foundation for claims that their provisions are non-applicable in war times. Setting explicitly that states have the same duties regarding violence against women in the situations of armed conflict as in peace time means that women are equally protected irrespectively of the current political situation. Importance of this provision is even more visible having in mind that international humanitarian law of armed conflicts (IHL) and international criminal law (ICL) does not provide for specific measures aiming generally in the protection of women against violence. Surely, IHL and ICL affirm individual criminal responsibility under international law for certain acts of violence that occurs during armed conflict as rape or sexual violence (that are primarily directed against women), but within specific context of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
The Convention establishes right to live free from violence in both the public and the private spheres (Explanatory Report 2011).
All forms of discrimination against women are condemned, and state parties are obliged to take the necessary legislative and other measures to prevent it (by introducing into internal legal systems the principle of equality between women and men and ensuring its practical realization, prohibiting discrimination against women and abolishing laws and practices which discriminate against women). There is a clear interconnection between discrimination and violence against women; gender-based violence constitutes a form of discrimination because it mainly affects women. State parties should also promote and effectively implement policies of equality between women and men and the empowerment of women. Significantly, the list of nondiscrimination grounds included in the Convention draws on that in Article 14 of the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), as well as the list contained in Protocol No. 12 to the ECHR. In Convention, its drafters added some other grounds of relevance to the subject matter of the Convention as gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, state of health, disability, marital status, migrant or refugee status, or other status, meaning that this is an open-ended list.
The treaty, as other human rights treaties, establishes both the negative and positive obligations of states. The first relates to the acts of states and its agents and requires refraining from engaging in any act of violence against women. The second deals with the behaviors of non-state actors. In this regard parties to the Convention are obliged to take the necessary measures to exercise due diligence in preventing, investigating, punishing, and providing for reparation for acts of violence. Using the term “due diligence” means that it is an obligation of means not of result. States are responsible for organizing the system of dealing with violence against women in a way that allows the relevant authorities to diligently act against such acts. State is responsible for act which generally is attributed only to a non-state actor only if it fails to do so. The failure in fulfilling international obligations, irrespective of their nature, entails state responsibility (Czaplinski 2001; Crawford 2002).
It is also important to note that the Convention is based on the principle of non-discrimination but allows for affirmative action regarding special measures to prevent and protect women from gender-based violence. Affirmative actions are crucial in combating gender discrimination in many fields (Wildman 2001). The fact that women experience gender-based violence to a significantly larger extent than men can be considered an objective and reasonable justification for using special resources for the benefit of women victims only.
The Convention contains legal definitions of main terms.
“Violence against women” is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological, or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. In comparison to the definition included in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, conventional understanding of the violence against women comprises also “economic harm.” It is important as “economic violence results in deepening poverty and compromises educational attainment and developmental opportunities for women. It leads to physical violence, promotes sexual exploitation and the risk of contracting HIV infection, maternal morbidity and mortality, and trafficking of women and girls” (Favole 2008).
“Domestic violence” is defined as all acts of physical, sexual, psychological, or economic violence that occur within the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, whether the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim. Domestic violence encompasses two types of violence, intimate partner violence and intergenerational violence, which typically occurs between parents and children. This definition is gender-neutral; it covers victims and perpetrators of both sexes (Explanatory Report 2011).
The Conventions explain the meaning of the term “gender.” It is understood as the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men. It also defines “gender-based violence against women” as violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It differs from other types of violence in that the victim’s gender is primary motive for the acts of violence. Also “a victim” is defined in the Convention as any natural person who is subject to the violence against women and domestic violence.
Particular Obligations of State Parties
Conventional state obligations to fight with the violence against women and domestic violence are structured in four headings (so-called four Ps): prevention, protection and support for victims, prosecution, and integrated policies. In this regard, state parties are obliged to introduce appropriate criminal, civil, and administrative law measures, in order to achieve the goals of the Convention. Substantive obligations cover preventive, protective, and compensatory measures for victims as well as punitive measures against perpetrators.
Generally, states shall undertake all necessary measures to promote changes in the social and cultural patterns of behavior of women and men with a view to eradicating prejudices, customs, and tradition based on the idea of the inferiority of women or on stereotyped roles for women and men. States are also obliged to take the necessary legislative and other measures to prevent all forms of violence against women and domestic violence, to encourage all members of the society to contribute actively to preventing the violence, and to promote programs and activities for the empowerment of women.
Awareness-raising campaigns or programs.
Teaching materials on the issues of gender equality, non-stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non-violent conflict resolution, gender-based violence against women in formal curricula, and at all levels of education as well as in informal educational facilities, in sports, cultural and leisure facilities, and the media.
Training for the relevant professionals on the prevention and detection of violence, gender equality, needs and rights of victims, and prevention of secondary victimization.
Setting up or supporting programs for perpetrators of domestic violence to teach them to adopt non-violent behavior in interpersonal relationships.
Encouraging the private sector, the information and communication technology sector, and the media to participate in the elaboration and implementation of policies directing in the prevention of violence against women. In this respect it is important to deal with gender stereotypes.
When preventive measures have failed and violence incidents have happened, it is important to provide victims and witnesses with protection and support. This means police intervention and protection as well as specialized support services such as shelters, telephone hotlines, etc. It also means making sure that general social services understand the realities and concerns of victims of domestic violence and violence against women and support them properly.
Providing for mechanisms of effective cooperation between all relevant state agencies, in protecting and supporting victims and witnesses of all forms of violence covered by the scope of the Convention. Dealing with violence is better addressed in a concerted and coordinated manner by several agencies, often specialized and therefore providing the type of services that are essentially needed.
Providing consular and other protection and support to their nationals and other victims entitled to such protection in accordance with their obligations under international law.
Ensuring access to adequate and timely information on available services and legal measures in an understandable language also on the applicable regional and international complaint mechanisms.
Ensuring access to services facilitating recovery from violence (legal and psychological counselling, financial assistance, housing, education, training and assistance in finding employment, health care, and social services).
Setting up of shelters.
Setting up state-wide round-the-clock (24/7) specialized telephone helplines free of charge to provide advice to callers that direct the victims to the services they need.
Setting up of rape crisis or sexual violence referral centers for victims in sufficient numbers to provide medical and forensic examination, trauma support, and counselling for victims.
Ensuring that due account is taken of the rights and needs of child witnesses.
Encouraging witnesses to report to the competent organizations or authorities of acts of violence.
Importantly, states are obliged that all these measures follow a gendered understanding of violence against women and domestic violence. They should be focused on the human rights and safety of the victim, based on an integrated approach, aimed at avoiding secondary victimization and the empowerment and economic independence of women victims of violence. They shall also address the specific needs of vulnerable persons.
Prosecution of Offenders
If acts of violence occurred, it is imperative to ensure that their perpetrator would not go without consequences. One of the aims of the Convention is to eradicate the culture of impunity and the existing social acquiescence for violent behaviors toward women.
The Convention defines and criminalizes various forms of violence. State parties must introduce several new offenses if they do not already exist in their internal laws. These include psychological and physical violence, sexual violence and rape, stalking, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, forced abortion, and forced sterilization. The definitions of crimes as envisaged in the Convention reflect minimum consensus, and states are permitted to establish higher standards. What is of importance is the notion of rape that follows the non-consensual approach in describing the criminal conduct, as established in ECHR case law (M.C. v. Bulgaria 2003). In addition, the obligation to criminalize and prosecute sexual violence and rape relates to all non-consensual sexual acts, irrespective of the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. It is important because still “martial rape (…) is the form of violence against women that is most clearly sanctioned by the state” (Yllö and Gabriela Torres 2016).
Only regarding sexual harassment, due to specific nature of this conduct, states can make it subject to appropriate remedy either under criminal law or other legal sanctions.
State parties must ensure that culture, tradition, or the so-called honor are not regarded as a justification for any of the abovementioned courses of conduct.
Conventional crimes shall be punishable with effective, proportionate, and dissuasive sanctions. That means these should be the sanctions that are capable to ensure achieving desired objective, adequately reflect the gravity of the violation and do not go beyond what is necessary, and, in addition, have deterrent effect on the perpetrator and the other potential offenders.
The Conventions establish also particular duties of states in respect to the prosecution of offenders. They are obliged to ensure effective investigation in respect to any allegation of violence against women and domestic violence. Police, prosecutor offices, and other law enforcement agencies have to initiate investigation, collect evidence, and assess the risk of further violence to adequately protect the victim. This provision is an exemplification of the positive obligation of states in the field of human rights protection as evolved in the jurisprudence of international human rights treaty bodies and especially ECHR case law (Opuz v. Turkey 2009).
Furthermore, state parties have to ensure that judicial proceedings are carried out in a manner that respects the rights of victims at all stages of the proceedings and that avoid secondary victimization. Particular obligations in this respect can be found both in human rights treaties and particularly in international documents dealing with the rights of victims. First of all, their right to fair and just trial must be respected; they should have the opportunity to present their views. All the time they should be treated with respect for their dignity and sensitivity. Moreover, victims should have appropriate support during the criminal proceedings (i.e., access to legal aid and interpreter). States also are obliged to provide for existence of measures aiming in elimination of inconveniences for victims, protecting their privacy and guaranteeing security and freedom from intimidation and retaliation, and also for their family members (UN Declaration of basic principles of justice 1985; EU Directive on victims of crime 2012).
Independent of criminal law provisions, states are obliged to provide victims with adequate civil remedies against perpetrators and State authorities that have failed in their duty to take the necessary preventive and protective measures. The Convention contains also the provisions relating to the right to compensations for victims of crime. This way, it considers the development of international norms and standards relating to this category of persons. Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights establishes that any person whose rights or freedoms is violated shall have an effective remedy and for its determination shall have access to appropriate competent authorities (ICCPR 1966). Generally, it is the perpetrator who is liable for damage, physical or moral harm resulting from criminal behaviors prohibited by the Convention. However, the Conventions establish also subsidiary obligation of states to compensate victims in cases of serious bodily injury and impairment of health. Similar obligations are established in the European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crimes of 1983.
Another important provision of civil character relates to marriages concluded under force. States should provide for their declaring voidable, annulled, or dissolved without undue financial or administrative burden placed on the victim.
The Convention deals also with the issue of the jurisdiction over the crimes. States are obliged to exercise jurisdiction over the crimes committed on its territory or on the board of ships and aircrafts registered under its law (territoriality principle). They shall also exercise jurisdiction over its nationals committing crime abroad (nationality principle) and may conduct legal proceedings if a victim is its national (passive personality principle). Important innovation is the resignation from dual criminality principle, which is not applicable regarding the most serious crimes: sexual violence including rape, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and forced abortion and forced sterilization committed by the nationals of state party concerned.
As was mentioned above, the Convention is based on the premise that no single institution can deal with violence against women and domestic violence alone. An effective response to such violence requires concerted action by many different actors. Therefore, state parties are asked to implement comprehensive and coordinated policies involving government agencies, NGOs, as well as national, regional, and local parliaments and authorities. The aim is that policies to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence are carried out at all levels of government and by all relevant agencies and institutions.
In addition to addressing governments and nongovernmental organizations, national parliaments, and local authorities, the Convention sends a clear message to society as a whole. Everyone must learn that any kind of violence is not the right way to solve difficulties and that now and in the future, violence against women and domestic violence are no longer tolerated (Explanatory Report 2011).
International cooperation of state parties to the Convention is not confined to legal cooperation in criminal and civil matters but extends to the exchange of information to prevent criminal offenses established under the Convention and to ensure protection from immediate harm. The Convention contains the obligation aiming in effective international cooperation in criminal and civil matters to give full effect to its provisions regarding prevention, combat and prosecution all forms of violence, protection and assistance to victims, investigative measures, and enforcement of judgments, including protective orders. Importantly, it sets itself as a legal basis for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, extradition, or enforcement of foreign civil or criminal judgments. It must be remembered that the mechanisms of international cooperation mentioned in the Convention are supplemented by other CoE conventions dealing with judicial cooperation, especially the 1957 European Convention on Extradition, 1959 European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters with its additional protocols, and 1970 European Convention on the International Validity of Criminal Judgments.
To make state obligations reality and to asses and improve their implementation, the Istanbul Convention provides for specific monitoring mechanism.
Monitoring mechanism of the Convention is based on the two-pillar system, consisting of two distinct, but interacting, bodies: the Group of Experts on Action Against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) and the Committee of the Parties.
GREVIO is an independent expert body. Initially, it was composed of 10 members and subsequently has been enlarged to 15 members. The personal composition of GREVIO should consider a gender and geographical balance, as well as multidisciplinary expertise in human rights, gender equality, violence against women and domestic violence, or in the assistance to and protection of victims. GREVIO members must be nationals of the States Parties to the Convention. Integrity, competence, independence, availability, and language skills (English and/or French) are the guiding principles for the nomination and election of GREVIO members.
GREVIO primary task is to monitor the implementation of the Convention by the Parties. It may also adopt general recommendations on themes and concepts of the Convention.
The Committee of the Parties is a political body, composed of representatives of the Parties to the Istanbul Convention. It follows up on GREVIO reports and conclusions and adopts recommendations to the Parties concerned. It is also responsible for the election of GREVIO members.
The Convention establishes two types of monitoring procedures: a country-by-country evaluation procedure and a special inquiry procedure.
The country-by-country evaluation procedure begins with a first assessment followed by evaluation rounds. GREVIO considers information submitted by states in response to its questionnaires or any other requests for information. It also considers data received from relevant CoE bodies, institutions established under other international instruments (e.g., CEDAW Committee), NGOs, and national human rights institutions. GREVIO may organize country visits if received information is insufficient. Then, after a phase of dialogue with the competent state authorities, GREVIO adopts its final reports and conclusions and sends them to the party concerned and the Committee of the Parties. The reports and conclusions of GREVIO are made public. The Committee of the Parties may adopt, based on GREVIO reports and conclusions, specific recommendations concerning the measures to be taken to implement the conclusions of GREVIO.
The evaluation procedure was initiated in March 2016 with the adoption of baseline questionnaire, which was sent to first parties to the Convention to be the subject of a first assessment. GREVIO already finished first evaluation procedure regarding Austria, Monaco, Albania, and Denmark by publishing GREVIO evaluation reports and recommendations by the Committee of the Parties.
A special inquiry procedure may be initiated by GREVIO when there is reliable information indicating that action is required to prevent a serious, massive, or persistent pattern of any acts of violence covered by the Convention. In such a case, GREVIO may request the urgent submission of a special report by the Party concerned. Considering the relevant information at its disposal, GREVIO may designate one or more of its members to conduct an inquiry and to report back. The inquiry may include a country visit. After having been examined by GREVIO, the findings of the inquiry are transmitted to the Party concerned and, where appropriate, to the Committee of the Parties and the CoE Committee of Ministers, together with any comments and recommendations.
The Istanbul Convention obliges states to invite national parliaments to participate in the monitoring process and to submit the GREVIO reports to them. It also foresees special role for the CoE Parliamentary Assembly, which is invited to regularly take stock of the implementation of the Convention.
The Convention, certainly being a progressive treaty, has raised certain controversies in some CoE states and has not been warmly welcomed by everyone. The opponents of the conventional definition of “gender” underline that “denying the existence of the natural differences between the two sexes has profound legal implications regarding the exact meaning and scope of ‘gender’ policies, freedom of religion, and the duty of professional secrecy.” It is also claimed that the obligation included in Article 12 (on promoting changes in the social and cultural patterns of behavior of women and men with a view to eradicating prejudices, customs, traditions, and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority of women or on stereotyped roles for women and men) may lead to stigmatization of the marriage as a tradition based on stereotyped gender roles. Moreover, it is underlined that “mainstreaming gender as a social construct, combined with the Istanbul Convention’s stated goal of eradicating customs and traditions could infringe upon parents’ right to direct the upbringing of their children in accordance with their moral and religious convictions” (ADF International 2018).
The Istanbul Convention undoubtedly constitutes an important step in the fight with the violence against women and domestic violence. It collects the best practices covering a broad range of measures and, differently to other international instruments dealing with gender-based violence, provides for the implementation of comprehensive and coordinated policies of various bodies involved in the prevention, prosecution, and protecting activities. However, the adequate evaluation of its effectiveness and influence on global actions for providing equality of women and women’s empowerment certainly requires passing of time.
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