Council of Europe Calls for Istanbul Convention Ratification

By 8 March 2018

ZAGREB, March 8, 2018 - The Istanbul Convention is not trying to change gender roles but its purpose is to educate against stereotypes based on the idea that women are inferior to men, the Council of Europe said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement, issued to coincide with International Women's Day on March 8, called on the Council of Europe member states to ratify the convention, which aims to prevent and eliminate violence against women. Almost all the member states have signed the document and 28 have ratified it.

"In recent months, several Council of Europe member states have shown 'cold feet' in moves to ratify the Council of Europe's Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (more commonly known as the 'Istanbul Convention'). "Although almost every single member of the Council of Europe has signed the treaty, recent misconceptions about its purpose as 'ideologically biased' or against 'traditional family values' are spreading like fog in some countries," the organisation said.

Croatia is one of the countries where ratification has caused heated debates in the parliament, civil sector and “expert” circles.

"(The Convention) has nothing to do with any attempt to change gender roles or try make people adopt different gender roles than they have presently," Bridget O'Loughlin, Executive Secretary of the Istanbul Convention, said in a video interview on the Council of Europe website. "The only thing it does say is that the way we have constructed gender roles today quite often mean that women are seen as less important or less powerful, and because of the gender stereotyping it makes them more vulnerable to violence than men," she added.

"You don't hear often of men being subjected to violence just because they are men. But women in all walks of life, whether it be in politics, in the domestic front, out in the street, online stalking, all these kinds of violence that are directed against women are directed against them because they are women and not because of something else that they may have done," O'Loughlin said.

There is nothing in the Convention at all about same-sex marriages and its only purpose is to prevent violence and prosecute perpetrators. The Convention is not putting any demands on states to legally recognise a third sex, people who do not identify as either male or female, but there is only a clause saying that no one should be discriminated against, O'Laughlin said. She stressed that the Convention protects all persons against violence, not just women and girls, but men and boys as well.

The Council of Europe is the oldest pan-European human rights organisation which has 47 members, of which 28 are members of the European Union. Croatia is due to assume the six-month presidency of the organisation in May.