Today, we would like to highlight the important achievements of the Istanbul Convention, the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. This European landmark treaty to end violence against women is known as the most far-reaching international legal instrument to set out binding obligations to prevent and combat violence against women. Ambassador Lorenzo Vella (Malta) considers the Convention to be “a life-saving instrument and the best means at our disposal to prevent and combat the global scourge of gender-based violence.”
To date, 34 member states of the Council of Europe have ratified the Istanbul Convention, including 20 out of 27 EU member states. By ratifying the Convention, member states undertake the obligation of adopting measures to preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The European Commission and the Council of Europe share the same goal of ending violence against women and domestic violence. To achieve this objective, the European Union has signed the Istanbul Convention alongside its Member States, which are all among the Council of Europe’s 47 members. Upon signing in 2017, the completion of EU accession to the Convention remains a key priority.
The European Commission is taking initiatives to advance the goals laid out in the Convention. For example, the EU Gender Equality Strategy provides for an ambitious set of measures for ending gender-based violence. The EU also works together with the Council of Europe to promote gender equality and the Istanbul Convention through joint programmes. For example, in the Partnership for Good Governance programme, one of the aims is to strengthen access to justice for women, especially women victims of violence in line with the Istanbul Convention.
Ambassador Nina Nordström (Finland): “National measures alone are not sufficient. This binding international treaty sets the highest standards for combating violence against women and domestic violence.” The Istanbul Convention recognises gender-based violence as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women. It starts from the principle that gender-based violence differs from other types of violence, due to the unequal power relations that lead to women’s subordinate status in the public and private spheres. Based on a victim-centred approach, the Convention offers practical tools to ensure the protection of women and girls. The overall goal is to achieve gender equality. It does so through its four areas of action, often called the four “Ps”:
- preventing violence against women,
- protecting victims,
- prosecuting perpetrators,
- implementing comprehensive and co-ordinated policies.
States that have ratified the Convention are also expected to take a whole societal response, fund all partners involved in the implementation and collect data and conduct research into the prevalence of all forms of gender-based violence, amongst others.
In order to supervise the implementation of the Convention, a monitoring mechanism has been set up through the creation of the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO).