Women’s rights advocates call for more urgent adherence to Istanbul Convention
ORGANISATIONS dedicated to the social, political and legal rights of women have welcomed the SNP’s call on the UK Government to fully ratify the Istanbul Convention on taking action to tackle violence against women.
Engender, one of the feminist bodies in Scotland described the delay by the UK to ratify it "shameful", and called on the Scottish Government to extend its own commitments to tackling violence against women.
Also know as 'The Council of Europe Convention' on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the Istanbul Convention is was opened for signature on 11 May 2011, in Istanbul, Turkey.
The convention is aimed at the prevention of violence, victim protection and "to end with the impunity of perpetrators".
Emma Ritch, executive director of Engender, said to CommonSpace: "The UK's delay in ratifying the Istanbul Convention is now shameful.
"Twenty-two states have committed to the convention's holistic response to epidemic levels of violence against women. The convention recognises that violence against women is a human rights violation, and commits states to a progressive approach to responding to and eradicating it."
"Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Women’s Aid have all called for the UK to ratify the pan-European convention on women’s and girls’ rights and yet we are still waiting for the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention." Eilidh Whiteford MP
The convention argues for co-signatures to adopt a number of resolutions and recommendations calling for legally-binding standards on prevention and prosecution of the most severe forms of gender-based violence.
On Thursday, the SNP urged the new UK prime minister, Theresa May, to back a Private Member’s Bill which would ensure the UK Government legislates to tackle violence against women and girls.
At PMQs on Wednesday, Stuart Donaldson MP highlighted the image captured last week when May met First Minster Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House in Edinburgh. He described it as a "message to girls everywhere that they can achieve anything they want and nothing should be off limits to them".
He urged the prime minister to commit to supporting fellow SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford’s Private Member’s Bill which would see the UK Government ratify the Istanbul Convention.
"It should shame us all that at least one in four women in the UK will still experience some form of violence during their lives and it is incumbent on us all to do all we can to end violence against women."
"Twenty-two states have committed to the convention's holistic response to epidemic levels of violence against women." Emma Ritch, Engender
Whiteford added: "The SNP has long called for action from the UK Government when it comes to tackling violence against women and ensuring cooperation between the UK Government, local authorities and charities.
"Ratifying the Istanbul Convention will not only help to tackle, and hopefully one day eradicate, gender-based violence but it would also send a clear message that any form of violence against women will not be tolerated – and I hope that the Prime Minister will support this legislation when it is debated later this year.
"Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Women’s Aid have all called for the UK to ratify the pan-European convention on women’s and girls’ rights and yet we are still waiting for the UK government to ratify the Istanbul Convention."
However, Emma Ritch of Engender pointed out that as long as Scotland's constitutional situation was as it was, the Scottish Government was limited in what action it could take.
Speaking again to CommonSpace, she said: "Scotland, as long as it remains part of the UK, cannot ratify the convention directly.
"However, Scottish women's organisations have long called on the Scottish Government to extend the reference to Istanbul in the violence against women strategy, Equally Safe, into a firm commitment to deliver on the convention's content."
"It should shame us all that at least one in four women in the UK will still experience some form of violence during their lives and it is incumbent on us all to do all we can to end violence against women." Stuart Donaldson MP
The UK Government has in the past blamed its delay on a requirement to make forced marriages illegal, but this happened in 2014. The Home Office and Foreign Office have also been said to be trying to run through the UK statute book to make all convention demands compatible with UK law. But there is also suspicion from campaigning organisations like Women's Aid and Amnesty International that spending cuts would make the convention hard to implement.
Picture courtesy of Ashley Van Haeften
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