In countries such as Germany and France, every three days a woman is killed by a violent partner or ex-partner. So far in 2019, the number of victims in Austria has reached 19. The 25th November reminds us year after year that violence against women and girls remains at a constant high level. The ratification of the so-called Istanbul Convention at EU level would be a step in the right direction.
The “Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence”, the so-called Istanbul Convention aims to protect women against all forms of violence and to prevent, pursue and to eradicate violence against women and domestic violence. The Istanbul Convention is currently the most comprehensive text in the fight against violence against women and gender-based violence. The latter has been explicitly classified as human rights violation, which has physical, mental and economic consequences for survivors. The internationally binding Convention obliges the contractual partners to implement comprehensive strategies in respect of prevention, victim protection and prosecution of abusers. Apart from that, the Convention provides for gathering data on gender-based violence and places responsibility on all actors: from the media that propagates stereotype role models up to authorities and the judiciary, which only inadequately support survivors of gender-based violence.
What has to happen at EU level?
Even though the Istanbul Convention came already into force in 2014, the EU only signed it in June 2017 and has not ratified it yet. This means in concrete terms that the resolution to ratify the Convention at EU level is still held up by the Council; hence the European Parliament is yet unable to agree to it. The latter has time and again called for a speedy ratification. The blame for the blockade lies among other with those Member States, which themselves have not ratified the Convention, namely Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Great Britain. Some of these have rejected ratification from the very start, arguing that the Convention would be a vehicle of a “gender ideology”, which would question the traditional values of gender and family. Whether violence against women and femicides are regarded as “traditional values” in Bulgaria, Slovakia and Czechia has not been specified.
The ratification of the Istanbul Convention is by no means a guarantee for the end of violence against women or gender-based violence, which furthermore disproportionally affects trans people. However, by ratifying the Istanbul Convention, the EU would send a strong and binding signal to those Member States, which shirk responsibility and often openly support misogynistic and LGBTI-phobic positions.
Parliament lights up in orange, feminists marching on the streets
Once again mass demonstrations took place across Europe - as every year - in order to protest against violence against women, gender-based violence and femicides and to demand political answers, such as the financial and staff support for women’s shelters. The European Parliament too addressed the issue. The plenary week began with a one-minute silence for victims of gender-based violence. Within the scope of a debate with the participation of the Finnish Presidency, the SPÖ MEP and Chair of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, Evelyn Regner, condemned trivialisation of violence against women as “family dramas” by the media and stressed that violence against women took place in particular at home, behind closed doors. Except for the extreme right, the mainly female MEPs clearly supported an end to toxic masculinity and unequally distributed power resources, in which gender-based violence is rooted.
Violence is taking place off and online
Feminists have forever been pointing out that physical violence, which in some cases leads to murder, is certainly the most extreme expression of violence against women; however, it was only the tip of the iceberg. Insults and threats are also an expression of a misogynistic culture and a helpless up to openly misogynist acting judiciary. Many women are in particular subject to online abuse such as insults and threats of violence. This affects in particular women, who express a political opinion or who hold office. Intimidation or threats pursue the goal to drive women out of public spaces. With regard to the forthcoming General Election in Great Britain, 18 female MPs will no longer stand for Parliament - due to online hate crime. That the boundaries between online and offline world are sometimes blurred is shown by the brutal murder of the British Labour politician Joe Cox in June 2016.
Helena Dalli promises end to the blockade
Within the scope of the conference on the subject of hate and misogyny on the internet, organised by the women of the Party of European Socialists, Helena Dalli, the Commissioner for Equality, promised to make the issue of gender-based violence a top priority during her time in office. This would also mean the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and the launch of a new gender strategy.