1. What is the Istanbul Convention?

Glad you asked. The Istanbul Convention’s full name is the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

2. OK - so it’s another piece of paper… but what does it actually do?

Good question. It does what it says on the tin:  It creates a strong, practical basis to prevent violence, protect women and girls from violence, and prosecute perpetrators. Below are some examples of what this looks like in practice...

Prevent

Countries that ratify the Istanbul Convention have to prevent violence against women and girls by:

  • regularly running awareness-raising campaigns;
  • training professionals who work closely with survivors;
  • providing education on equality between men  and women, gender stereotypes, violence against women and girls, and non-violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships; and
  • encouraging the media and the private sector to have stronger policies, guidelines, and standards to prevent violence against women and increase respect for their dignity; and setting up treatment programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence and for sex offenders.

Protect

Countries that ratify the Istanbul Convention have to provide women and girls who experience violence with protection and support by:

  • Setting up a sufficient number of shelters to provide women and girls experiencing violence with safe accommodation;
  • Setting up a sufficient number of rape crisis or sexual violence referral centres that provide medical and forensic examination, trauma support and counselling for survivors;
  • Ensuring that country-wide 24/7 telephone helplines are available free of charge, in addition to specialised helplines; and
  • Ensuring that survivors of violence have access to the services their need, such as legal and psychological counselling, financial assistance, housing, education, training and assistance in finding employment.

Prosecute:

Countries that ratify the Istanbul Convention have to take action to ensure the prosecution of perpetrators of violence by:

  • Defining and criminalising different forms of violence against women and girls, including psychological and physical violence, sexual violence and rape, stalking, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, forced abortion and forced sterilisation;
  • Taking action to ensure the effective investigation of any allegation of violence against women and domestic violence; and
  • Ensuring that culture, custom, religion, tradition or so‐called “honour” are not considered as justification for such acts.

Monitor

  • The Istanbul Convention also has strong system for checking that States are living up to their obligations so that they can be held accountable for their action (or sometimes lack of action) to end violence against women and girls.

3. Cool. But I’ve Googled and the UK signed it in 2012 – so why the ratification fuss?

Signing is the UK saying it has the INTENTION of complying in the future… but actually it doesn’t have any legal status. By ratifying the UK Government will be LEGALLY BOUND to comply with the Istanbul Convention.

Basically: no ratification, no law.

4. And so the Istanbul Convention will actually create change?

It already has. Since signing the Istanbul Convention, the UK Government has made gradual changes to the law to comply with the Istanbul Convention, including Female Genital Mutilation, Forced Marriage and Coercive Control - or psychological abuse.

5. OK, but you’ve already said that the Istanbul Convention has changed some laws in response – so why do we need ratification?

It’s great that the UK Government is already taking action in order to meet the requirements of the Istanbul Convention.  However, ending violence against women and girls is not being prioritised enough. Efforts to prevent violence against women and girls are inadequate, services providing survivors with protection and support are in crisis, and our prosecution system is failing survivors.

And until the Government has ratified the Istanbul Convention, it doesn’t have to tackle these problems because it is currently under no legal obligation to meet all of its requirements. It can just pick and choose which parts of the Convention it wants to focus on. We can’t afford to have a patchy approach to ending violence against women and girls. We need the full change. That’s why we need the UK to ratify the Istanbul Convention.