On the 4th February 2014, The Joint Committee on Human Rights launched an inquiry into violence against women and girls (VAWG) and has requested evidence from anyone with an interest in the human rights issues raised (within specified categories).
This inquiry is being undertaken in consideration to the Istanbul Convention, aka The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, and the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
2 years ago, campaigners called upon the UK Government to sign the Istanbul convention, which they did on 8/6/12, however to date, our government has failed to ratify it; meaning that the Istanbul Convention is not in force in the UK.
Several years ago, The Council of Europe determined it necessary to set objective and comprehensive standards, to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence. Data evidenced that there are many types of violence that women experience either exclusively or that affect women to a much larger extent than men. They also recognised the need for unified legislative standards, ensuring that all victims across Europe benefit from the same level of protection.
After consultation, the Istanbul Convention was drafted and opened for signature on 11th May 2011. Its chief aims are to prevent violence, protect victims and to end the impunity of perpetrators.
The Istanbul Convention is a comprehensive treaty covering many forms of violence against women and is the most far reaching International legally binding instrument in this area. Article 3(a) of the Istanbul Convention defines violence against women as a human rights violation and a form of discrimination against women. The Convention establishes a due diligence principle meaning ‘state responsibility for violence against women perpetrated by public authorities but also by private actors.’ The Convention is the ‘first international Convention, which creates a comprehensive legal framework and approach to combat violence against women.’ Though the treaty is made in Europe, it has the potential to become a global standard.
The Istanbul Convention has been signed by 47 countries. Turkey was the first to ratify it on 12/03/12 and now a total of 7 countries have ratified the Convention including: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal and Serbia.
‘Going to Work’, an online campaigns network by the TUC, fears that government cuts to the domestic and sexual violence sector may mean ‘a situation where the UK may fail to meet basic standards in the Convention.’ Polly Neate, Chief, executive of Women’s Aid wrote In an open letter to Theresa May on 3rd December 2013: “I fear that the scale of cuts to local authority funding for specialist domestic violence services will now prevent your government from achieving its ambitions. We have reached a crisis, and the result will be more women and children killed and hurt though domestic violence.”
For the International Elimination Against Violence Against Women Day 2013, Women’s Aid and the TUC launched a joint campaign which included an online petition and ‘thunderclap‘ asking the government to ratify the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention.
The Joint Committee is particularly keen to consider the extent to which issues relating to culture, custom, religion or tradition may be used to justify acts of violence against women and girls and other serious human rights violations.
One of the categories on which the Committee seeks evidence from anyone with an interest in the human rights issues includes: The Government’s ratification of The Istanbul Convention: ‘the extent to which UK law, policy and practice are compliant with the Convention’s requirements and what more the Government needs to do domestically to enable the UK to ratify the Convention and to ensure the Convention’s effective implementation once ratified. Submissions may focus on particular aspects of the Convention, including the definition of VAWG and the obligations on the State to:
- prevent VAWG (Chapter III);
– protect victims (Chapter IV); and to
– investigate VAWG (Chapter VI).’
The deadline for written submissions to the Joint Committee (via web portal or email) is 12pm on Wednesday 5th March 2014. For full information about the inquiry please visit the Parliamentary website.
‘Over 1.2m women are estimated to have experienced domestic violence last year and two women a week are killed by perpetrators, according to the national domestic violence charity.’ 03.12.13
In peace and love.