Credit: Senate CR.

Senate Committees Vote Against Ratification of Istanbul Convention

The Senate will take a position on the Convention at one of its autumn sessions. Credit: Senate CR. 

Prague, Aug 22 (CTK) – None of the Senate committees examining the ratification of the Istanbul Convention have voted to support it so far. The Senate foreign committee declined to recommend ratification of the Convention today, describing it as redundant, similarly to the committee for EU affairs, which also cited the lack of clarity in the interpretation of certain passages of the Convention. In addition to preventing and combating domestic violence, the Convention is also intended to address gender-based violence.

The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, which is mainly opposed by conservative politicians, was rejected in July by the upper house’s constitutional and legal committee, which described it as an ideological document. Similarly to the committee for EU affairs, it asked the Ministry of Justice to strengthen the protection of victims of domestic violence.

The Senate is likely to take its position on the Convention at one of its autumn sessions.

European committee head Pavel Fischer (unaffiliated), who voted against ratification, said that, based on an analysis of statistical data, the Convention has not improved the protection of women or victims of domestic violence in many of the countries that have ratified it.

The Government Commissioner for Human Rights, Klara Simackova Laurencikova, described the Convention as a safety measure for the implementation of prevention and victim assistance programs. She said the Czech Republic lagged behind in the area of ​​preventing violence against women, as violent patterns of behaviour towards women were passed on from generation to generation. She noted that 37 of the 43 member states of the Council of Europe have ratified the Convention.

Committee chairman Vladislav Vilimec (ODS) noted that neither Lithuania or Latvia had ratified the document either.

The Czech Republic signed the Convention in 2016, but its submission to parliament for ratification has been postponed several times by previous governments. The Czech Republic is among a minority of EU countries that have not yet adopted the document. Member states agreed in early June to join the Convention. However, Bulgaria and Hungary had earlier refused ratification, Slovakia has not signed it, and Turkey has withdrawn from the Convention.

The Convention has aroused strong emotions in the Czech Republic, opposed by conservatives and the seven Christian churches in the country. Its supporters, on the other hand, argue that it will help improve measures to assist victims of violence, and that it is also a symbol showing that violence is unacceptable in the Czech Republic. Opponents accuse the Convention of favouring women over other groups of victims, and criticise the demand for social and relational changes in society.

The Senate constitutional law committee agreed by a narrow majority that the Convention was “an ideological document that will not help victims of domestic violence in practical terms”. It supported the Ministry of Justice’s efforts to strengthen the legislative protection of victims of domestic violence and crime. Opponents of the Convention were concerned, among other things, that it would introduce the concept of gender into Czech law. They also had reservations about the funding of services provided by non-profit organisations.

The Istanbul Convention condemns domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, forced marriage, honour crimes and genital mutilation. It points out that women are much more likely to be victims of domestic and sexual violence than men, as well as victims of mass rape in armed conflicts. The document sees violence against women as a violation of human rights and discrimination. In the Convention, states vow to enact measures against violence, secure prevention and allocate money for services, among other things. It also envisages training for health workers, police officers and judges.

Based on the Convention, there should be medical assistance centers for victims of sexual violence, legal and psychological support and shelters. The text mentions that men and boys should also be involved in the prevention and that violent persons should be engaged with.


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