The Istanbul Convention

Combatting Violence against Women

by Clare Coulter

The National Women’s Council Observatory on Violence against Women hosted an information forum on the Istanbul Convention as part of the 16 days of activism against gender based violence in December 2016. The forum highlighted the need for future reform, especially in the area of data collection and defining the ‘gold standard’. The audience consisted of an interesting mix of NGOs from around Dublin who were, mostly, passionate supporters of this issue.

David Stanton, Minister of State for Justice with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration, and Integration, kick started the event with a summary of what legislation the current government is enacting. It is clear that this issue is on the government’s agenda and that Minister Stanton himself is a firm supporter. On the other hand, it was somewhat sugar coated; for instance, he mentioned the government was in the process of enacting the new Domestic Violence Bill; however this bill was promised for 2015.

Later, a European perspective was presented by Lynn Boylan, Sinn Fein MEP, Christina Olsen, Council of Europe and Deirdre Clune, Fine Gael MEP. All speakers emphasised the need for effective data collection and comparison – a theme that ran through everyone’s talk – and the fact that we simply cannot understand the depth and breadth of the problem of domestic violence without such data. Other problems, such as court systems, police recording of domestic violence and victim blaming were also mentioned. An interesting aspect raised was the cost which domestic violence has on society. It was reluctantly raised, as it was felt the focus should remain on the victims of the crime, but nonetheless the cost cannot be denied. It was stated that domestic violence costs Ireland 2.2 billion euros a year.

The conference finished with a panel discussion, hosted by Dearbhail McDonald, where interesting questions were raised and discussions had. Personally, I found it interesting to hear some criticism from one audience member of the Istanbul Convention based on lack of evidence. I did not agree with his point, but I think it illuminated the need for data quite succinctly, which in some ways was the aim of the conference.

Overall, the conference raised some thought-provoking points and demonstrated there is still much work to be done with regards domestic violence, especially in the legal system. It also alluded to the broader problems with violence against women globally. Ratifying the Istanbul Convention will not be an easy task.

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