Attracting attention for unpleasant issues can be a challenge, as many D&I practitioners know. A regional project called ‘Coordinated Efforts’ has produced and published notable videos that call upon West Balkan States to advance their agendas on preventing and combating violence against women (and domestic violence).
Imagine a video with pictures of beautiful bays, peaceful old towns and wild coastlines. The text to these images says: “Welcome to Croatia, a country where men who abuse women should not go to jail, a country where female victims of violence do not have adequate protection, a country that is not delivering on their signature.” With these strong words, an online campaign puts Hrvatska on the spot and urges the country to ratify the so-called Istanbul Convention it had signed back in January 2013. All neighbours of the Adriatic country, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia and Slovenia, have in the meantime ratified the text, while many others, including Germany, Greece, Hungary or Luxembourg – and 16 others – have not yet done so.
You may not have noted in the first place that the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention came into force in the summer of 2014, for it was the result of a long and quiet process. The convention aims at setting comprehensive standards to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence by focusing on five areas: Prevention, protection, prosecution, integrated policies and monitoring. Many would hope that such basic rights are granted in all member states of the Council of Europe and the European Union. As of January 2016, the convention was signed and ratified by 19 countries and signed by another 20 (where ratification is pending). 8 countries have not yet signed the convention and 5 non-members as well as the European Union are hoped to do so in the future. The EU Commission has already presented a road-map how to accomplish this.
The development of the convention followed many years of campaigning and research that had led to the insight that national responses to violence against women and domestic violence varied across Europe, and that the need for harmonised legal standards can help ensure that victims benefit from the same level of protection. The Istanbul Convention supports this approach in a clear and consistent way. But in order to develop its full impact, it has to be signed and ratified by all Member States and important non-members as well. As the ‘Coordinated effort’ project puts it: Signature is an obligation. See their video on YouTube. The video was published mid November 2015, ten days after Ireland had ratified the convention.
The Council of Europe’s ‘Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence’ was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 7 April 2011 and it opened for signature on 11 May 2011 on the occasion of the 121st Session of the Committee of Ministers in Istanbul. Following its 10th ratification by Andorra on 22 April 2014, it entered into force on 1 August 2014. The Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence is the international agreement, which will be applied for all forms of violence against women and ensure the prevention of violence, direct protection of women against violence, prosecute and punish perpetrators of violence as well as effective system of monitoring the implementation of the Convention’s provisions.