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Convention on Preventing Violence Against Women Signed in Istanbul

At a ceremony on 11th May 2011 in Turkey, the Council of Europe gained the first signatures for a new convention on preventing violence against women.

José Mendes Bota, Chairperson of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, spoke at the Istanbul launch of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence:

“Today the Council of Europe has established a crucial landmark on the way to ensuring the equal enjoyment of human rights by women and men.”

“Violence against women is a human rights violation which thrives on gender discrimination and unequal power relations between women and men in society. The Istanbul Convention places a powerful tool into the hands of states for eradicating this evil, saving millions of victims and delivering justice.”

“I am delighted that 13 Council of Europe member states – including Turkey, the current Chair of the Committee of Ministers – have taken the lead in signing the Convention this morning. This is an important political sign that violence against women and domestic violence must end. I call on all Council of Europe member states and the European Union to become parties to our Convention as soon as possible, so that its great potential is exploited to the full.”

“For its part, the PACE network of contact parliamentarians committed to combating violence against women stands ready to support the Istanbul Convention, with a view to promoting its signature, ratification and effective implementation by the largest possible number of states, and to carry out visibility and awareness-raising activities amongst the general public.”

Beate Rudolf, director of the German Institute of Human Rights said:

“This convention means that for the first time there is a European level human rights treaty that requires states to maintain comprehensive and coordinated measures for prevention, protection and support services as well as criminal, civil and immigration law. The rapid drawing up of the convention by Germany reinforced the importance which Germany attaches to the protection of women against violence both in peacetime and in armed conflicts.”

A section from the preamble of the convention is quoted below:

“Condemning all forms of violence against women and domestic violence;

“Recognising that the realisation of de jure and de facto equality between women and men is a key element in the prevention of violence against women;

“Recognising that violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between women and men, which have led to domination over, and discrimination against, women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women;

“Recognising the structural nature of violence against women as gender-based violence, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men;

“Recognising, with grave concern, that women and girls are often exposed to serious forms of violence such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, forced marriage, crimes committed in the name of so-called “honour” and genital mutilation, which constitute a serious violation of the human rights of women and girls and a major obstacle to the achievement of equality between women and men;

“Recognising the ongoing human rights violations during armed conflicts that affect the civilian population, especially women in the form of widespread or systematic rape and sexual violence and the potential for increased gender-based violence both during and after conflicts;

“Recognising that women and girls are exposed to a higher risk of gender-based violence than men;

“Recognising that domestic violence affects women disproportionately, and that men may also be victims of domestic violence;

“Recognising that children are victims of domestic violence, including as witnesses of violence in the family;

“Aspiring to create a Europe free from violence against women and domestic violence”

In an undertaking which may have a bearing on the UK’s “Calm down dear” debate, the convention stipulates:

“Parties shall take the necessary measures to promote changes in the social and cultural patterns of behaviour 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.”

The UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, told Angela Eagle MP to “Calm down dear” when he was trying to discuss health policy over a raucous chamber. The comments were resoundingly branded as patronising. “Dear” is a familiar term not normally used in the House of Commons where the correct term of address is “the Honourable Member”.

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