The governments of Poland and Turkey have announced plans to withdraw from the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention.
The Istanbul Convention was signed in 2011 and is the world’s first binding instrument to prevent violence against women. Countries that have signed the convention are legally obligated to protect women against all forms of violence, to provide services to victims and to work on prevention of violence against women and domestic violence. 44 nation states and the European Union have signed the convention and 34 states have ratified it, including Iceland.
The steps that the governments of Poland and Turkey have taken to withdraw from the convention are horrifying and a major setback in the global fight to ensure gender equality. These actions are not only an attack on women, but also on LGBTQ+ people, minority groups and people in a vulnerable position. It is a grave disappointment that Poland and Turkey, among the first countries to ratify the Istanbul Convention, now plan to withdraw from it. These plans set back and prevent the progress to full equality, not only within their borders but in all of Europe, since this decision sets a dangerous example to other states where human rights and democracy are under attack.
The Icelandic Women’s Rights Association (IWRA) is a member of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), an umbrella organization for feminist NGO’s in Europe. In a statement released on the efforts in Poland to withdraw from the convention, Gwendoline Lefebvre, the president of EWL, points out that the Istanbul Convention is most comprehensive instrument available to European governments to prevent violence against women. “We cannot accept that an EU Member State decides to withdraw from its obligations to protect women’s rights,” says Ms. Lefebvre. Tatjana Latinovic, the president of IWRA, concurs and says that “an attack on women’s rights in one country is an attack on women’s rights everywhere. These rights were not easily achieved and we must protect them.”
IWRA stands with its sister organizations in Poland and Turkey, NEWW-Polska and Avrupa Kadin Lobisi Turkiye Koordinasyonu, that are in the frontlines of guaranteeing the safety and security of women and gender equality in their respective countries. IWRA stands in solidarity with all the women, people and feminist organizations in Poland and Turkey that for decades have worked tirelessly to create a gender equal society.
IWRA calls on the governments of Poland and Turkey to reaffirm their commitment to the Istanbul Convention and to guarantee the safety and security of women and gender equality within their borders.
IWRA urges the Icelandic government to work to ensure that all European states honor and fulfil the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, and that they denounce plans in Poland and Turkey to withdraw from the convention.