From Istanbul to Ireland and beyond!

At the YWCA European Regional Meeting held last week in Stuttgart, YWCA Ireland proposed a resolution for our European network to lobby governments for the signing, ratification and effective implementation of the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (more commonly known as the Istanbul Convention). We are pleased to share that this resolution was passed and is now an official policy of the European YWCA network. Violence against women has been a longstanding priority for the YWCA which currently advocates for the implementation of key global commitments on women, young women and girls by utilizing mechanisms such as CEDAW, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Human Rights Council.
If ratified, the Istanbul Convention will provide a robust framework for the prevention of violence against women and domestic violence defining the following forms of violence against women:

– psychological violence
– stalking
– physical violence
– sexual violence, including rape
– forced marriage
– female genital mutilation
– forced abortion and forced sterilisation
– sexual harassment

The convention has a strong focus on prevention, seeking to address gender stereotypes and misogynistic attitudes that contribute to violence against women and domestic violence. It provides the most rigorous legal framework to date aimed at addressing this issue, clarifying previously undefined terms and highlighting the diversity, yet commonality of the many forms of violence against women. The Convention is clear that these manifestations of violence are not random, but are both a cause and a consequence of the systematic inequality faced by women.

To date, 21 states have signed and 15 states have ratified the Istanbul Convention, but unfortunately Ireland has yet to take action. While the Justice Minister has expressed support for the Convention, the delay in Ireland’s signing and ratification has centred around an alleged incompatibility of Article 52 of the Convention (on emergency barring orders) with the Irish constitution in relation to property rights. However, given the prevalence of violence against women and domestic violence, the Irish government cannot afford to delay in making Ireland a safer place for women. Current statistics indicate that 1 in 5 women in Ireland have been abused by a current or former partner. In fact, it is a shocking reality that Irish women are more likely to be murdered in their own homes than in any other place. According to statistics published by Women’s Aid, of the 207 women murdered in Ireland since 1996, 62% were killed in their own home. Of the resolved cases, 53% were found to have been murdered by a partner or former partner and a total of 89% were murdered by someone known to them. Sadly, this violence has too often been viewed as a family matter or a lover’s quarrel, rather than as a grave human rights violation and a serious social evil.

Violence against women and domestic violence are not a localised issue. United Nations studies have shown that the most common form of violence experienced by women globally is physical violence inflicted by an intimate male partner. This is in addition to the many other manifestations of violence such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage and rape. While the political, social and economic structures may vary, violence against women is a common feature of all. This is why we have called upon our European partners to join us in campaigning for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. As a European network we are united in declaring that violence against women and domestic violence are serious crimes of public concern which require a rigorous response. Governments must ratify this Convention if they are serious in their commitment to promoting human rights.

Of course ratification alone is insufficient; violence against women is a pervasive issue stemming from deeply entrenched societal attitudes and stereotypes. Subsequently, ratification of the Istanbul Convention by Ireland and other governments would only mark the beginning of the long process of tackling this human rights issue and ensuring the successful implementation of all aspects of the Convention. The YWCA movement must take the lead in demanding that our governments follow through on their international obligations as we work towards a Europe free from violence.

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