MEPs approve Istanbul Convention against domestic violence as Czechia lags behind

The first legally binding instrument on preventing and combating violence against women has still not been ratified because of six member states. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 11.05.2023 07:30:00 (updated on 11.05.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Following a six-year process, the European Parliament on Wednesday approved ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women. The document was adopted even though not all 27 EU member states have yet joined the treaty. Despite persistent criticism from other member states, the Czech Republic is among the countries that have not yet joined the convention.

The document sets out the obligations of EU bodies and public administration in the field of preventing and combating violence against women, as well as judicial cooperation in criminal matters and asylum issues. 

Critics say the treaty could, for example, be misused to promote gender ideologies, or that it could threaten traditional family values. Such criticisms, however, have proven largely unfounded.

Today, it has a life of its own and has a symbolic meaning for two sides - for the conservatives who say the convention is harmful, and for those who see it as a useful thing to improve the fight against domestic violence and violence against women.

-Vice-President of the European Commission, Věra Jourová in an April 2023 interview with iDnes.

The Czech Republic signed the Council of Europe Convention in 2016, but ratification has been delayed several times by previous governments.

On Wednesday, however, the European Parliament decided on its ratification in all countries where the European Union has competence. The accession of the EU to the Istanbul Convention does not exempt member states from the obligation to ratify it themselves. 

MEPs therefore repeatedly called on the remaining six countries – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia – to ratify the convention without delay.

The text of the convention condemns domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, forced marriages, so-called honor crimes, or genital mutilation, viewing violence against women as a violation of human rights and discrimination.

The convention requires states to enact measures against violence, prevent it, and allocate funds for services. Czech MEPs were divided in their votes with members elected for SPD, ODS, and ANO voting against these measures.

Czech MEPs Veronika Vrecionová, Michaela Šojdrová, and Tomáš Zdechovský abstained from voting. In addition to the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia have not ratified the convention.

The ratification of the Istanbul Convention is an important step in the fight against violence against women and domestic violence. In passing it, the European Union shows its commitment to the protection of human rights and gender equality.

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