EFA condemns Poland decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention

In recent days Poland has signalled that it will be withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention, which sets out international standards concerning gender-based violence. 

Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said the treaty is harmful because it teaches children about gender in an “ideological” way and does not respect religion.

The Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s comprehensive human rights treaty on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. It provides a legal framework for states to fight gender-based violence, setting international standards and defining various offences and types of violence against women. 

The timing of this move is also rather troubling, coming as it does just days after a step forward for the union with its recovery package and shared-debts.

The text agreed for the recovery package deal did not include strong enough provisions regarding the Rule of Law. This means that there is no clear procedure or repercussion for countries like Poland who deliberately act against the spirit of the European Union’s values and do not respect the rule of law. 

EFA President Lorena López de Lacalle said:

“Women have been uniquely affected by the pandemic, particularly in terms of domestic violence as lockdowns have meant that many have been trapped inside with their abusers.

For Poland to leave the Istanbul Convention is extremely worrying for all Europeans, and we must hope that it does not set a dangerous precedent.

EFA condemns the Polish decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, and we stand with women in Poland fighting patriarchal violence and demonstrators campaigning against the withdrawal. We will continue to fight to keep Poland in the convention, and we must go even further to prevent and combat violence against women worldwide.”

EFA Vice President and Bureau member, Marta Bainka added:

“Being a woman and a citizen of Poland I found it hard to believe that my country’s government is planning to quit a treaty that protects women from violence. The Polish government, which claims so strongly to protect families, is once again betraying them. Democracy is not only about elections and voting rights, but about equality and human rights. 

We must protect people when their rights are breached, especially those most vulnerable people such as victims of domestic violence. This is what the Istanbul Convention is about and quitting it means helping abusers.”

Image Copyright: AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski