Czechia won’t ratify international treaty against domestic violence this year

The Istanbul Convention is aimed at preventing violence against women, protecting victims, and ending impunity for perpetrators.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 31.01.2022 11:57:00 (updated on 31.01.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

New Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blažek wants a full-year delay in negotiations on the Istanbul Convention, which combats violence against women and domestic violence. Discussions would start at the end of January 2023.

Czech news server Deník N writes that Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s government has a lukewarm attitude toward the convention. Fiala has not responded to Deník N’s question on whether he personally supports its ratification. Government spokesman Václav Smolka told Deník N the government meeting on the convention “will be preceded by further political talks.”

The Justice Ministry says that political debates are needed before the Czech Republic ratifies the convention.

“We would like to provide sufficient time to discuss the issue in question politically. This of course does not rule out further steps toward the decision on whether the Istanbul Convention will be ratified or not, provided there is a political consensus before the date,” Justice Ministry spokesman Vladimír Řepka said.

The Justice Ministry said it had sent the request to postpone the debate again, till the end of January 2023, to the Government Office last week.

The Czech Republic signed the Istanbul Convention in May 2016. For it to take effect, though, it needs to be ratified by both houses of the Czech parliament and signed by President Miloš Zeman.

The Istanbul convention – formally known as the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence – has a goal of preventing violence, protecting victims, and ending impunity for perpetrators.

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It condemns domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, forced marriages, so-called honor crimes, and female genital mutilation. States are committed not only to enacting measures against violent attacks but also to allocating money to help victims.

So far, 45 countries plus the European Union have signed the convention, and 34 countries have ratified it, not counting Turkey, which withdrew its ratification last year.

Critics of the convention in the Czech Republic include conservative parties and the Catholic Church. They say the convention is not needed, and it places men and women into opposition.

Its advocates say the convention emphasizes that domestic violence and violence against women is unacceptable, and that the state would be required to provide support measures for victims.

When the Czech Republic signed the convention in 2016, Social Democrat Bohuslav Sobotka was prime minister.

The government of Andrej Babiš, who was prime minister from Dec. 13, 2017, to Dec. 17, 2021, took no action on the treaty. Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Valkova, whose term ends today, initially did not support the convention but in autumn 2019 she said it was needed in the Czech Republic.

In March 2021, though, she said Babiš’s government was unlikely to ratify the convention before the October elections, so the issue would be left to the next cabinet.

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