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10th anniversary of the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention: 'Nothing will make us back down'

“As we seat here and debate, women will be beaten to death. And we are not just talking about a few cases, but about thousands and thousands and thousands of acts of violence. Just think about it”, PACE President Rik Daems said at the opening of an event organized in the framework of the PACE 2021 Summer plenary Session to mark the 10th anniversary of the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

“The Council of Europe brought global attention to the issue of gender-based violence by passing the Istanbul Convention. You cannot now look away from what you correctly identified as one of the most dangerous and pervasive human rights violations,” said human rights activist Nadia Murad, winner of the 2016 Vaclav Havel Prize and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. “The gravity of this issue demands that it be addressed at every level: in international bodies such as this, in your national governments, and in our communities,” she added.

Alexander de Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium, recalled than in Europe “one woman in five is still a victim of physical or sexual violence, and every day seven women die under the beating of their partners”. This “is not sustainable in a post-crisis time when we need the best of each of us to help build back our world. We can only do that by engaging the full potential of humanity – that is, including women in all parts of society, in decision-making, and by removing all barriers and discriminatory laws. This is a time when, more than ever, the Istanbul Convention can help us reverse the negative trend,” he said.

“Let me take this opportunity to commend the Council of Europe for its remarkable work in relation to combating violence against women,” said Anca Dana Dragu, President of the Romanian Senate. “I want to congratulate the Parliamentary Assembly whose recommendations, tools and guidance have helped parliaments for many years. Romania is committed to implementing the provisions of the Istanbul Convention and encourages its signature and ratification by as many countries as possible. It is a truly unique instrument, and if I were to sum up in two words why, I would say this: it saves lives."

Parliamentarians can play “a crucial role in the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, in its implementation, and more generally as agents for changing mentalities,” underlined Elisabeth Moreno, Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities of France. “I know that the debates in several countries on the Istanbul Convention, or even on the very concept of ‘gender’, may have been distorted by misunderstandings and untruths. Make no mistake about it and make a clear commitment, whatever your political affiliation, your religion or your gender, in favour of the Istanbul Convention: it is purely and simply to save the lives of women victims of violence in their homes, and no other international instrument better protects women around the world,” she concluded.

Dubravka Šimonović, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said that in her capacity she was using the Istanbul Convention “as part of an international human rights framework to address measures needed to combat and prevent violence against women. This Convention is a powerful roadmap to the legal and other measures needed in the areas of preventing violence against women, protecting victims or prosecuting perpetrators. And this can be used by States all over the world.”

“It is because of misconceptions that one of our member states withdrew from this Convention. Our best response to these false truths is to expand the circle of States Parties to this treaty, and we have already started to do that. I have received the instrument of ratification from Liechtenstein, and other member states, such as Ukraine and the United Kingdom, are also moving towards ratification. In these countries - and in all countries - the support of parliamentarians is crucial,” said Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe. “Nothing will make us back down. On the contrary, this entire Organisation - each of its components - will gather its strength and make further progress - for the benefit of women across Europe and beyond,” she concluded.

Zita Gurmai, PACE General Rapporteur on violence against women, told countries who do not support the Istanbul Convention, or have “sadly just withdrawn from it", that no national legislation can replace the Istanbul Convention system. We need to combat misconceptions and disinformation about the Convention. We can and must change mindsets and show that there is no political or ideological agenda. Its only aim is to stop violence against women and domestic violence.”

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Nadia Murad, Human Rights activist, winner of the 2016 Vaclav Havel Prize and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.
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Alexander de Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium, and PACE President Rik Daems
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Anca Dana Dragu, President of the Senate of Romania
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Elisabeth Moreno, Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities, France
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Dubravka Šimonović, United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
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Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
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Zita Gurmai, PACE General Rapporteur on violence against women, Petra Bayr, Chairperson of the Equality Committee, and Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis, PACE Secretary General.
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Marija Pejčinović Burić, Elisabeth Moreno, Rik Daems, Zita Gurmai and Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis, at the end of the PACE event to mark the 10th anniversary of the Istanbul Convention.

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