Senior international politicians have called on the European Union (EU) to approve the introduction of an international domestic violence treaty.
The so-called Istanbul Convention was opened for signature by the Council of Europe (CoE) in the Turkish capital in May 2011. Its full title is the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. If enacted by the EU, this would empower police to remove perpetrators of domestic violence from their homes, and criminalise a wide range of offences such as psychological violence, forced marriage, forced sterilisation and female genital mutilation, even though many of these are already crimes in several EU states.
Member states would also be required to ensure that they have an adequate number of shelters for victims. They would also be obliged to establish national, free-to-access 24/7 helplines for victims.
The CoE is an inter-governmental body with 47 member states. It runs the European Court of Human Rights and exists separately from the EU. While the Council cannot make binding laws, members of the European Commission have called for the Istanbul Convention to be ratified by all EU member states. The Commission is the EU’s executive body responsible for introducing legislation.
So far, 12 EU members have ratified the Convention and 13 more have signed but not yet ratified it.
Věra Jourová is the EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. She said that victims of domestic violence “must be better protected across Europe”. As many as “one in three women in the EU has experienced physical or sexual violence, or both”, she claimed, and more than half have experienced sexual harassment. EU ratification of the Convention would represent “a step forward both for our fight against violence and in guaranteeing gender equality”, she insisted.
Read more on the Istanbul Convention here.