The Coalition is undermining Europe’s deal on violence against women

In The Times last week, it was revealed that the UK Government has taken worrying steps to water-down the Council of Europe’s Draft Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

The Coalition has two main objections. Firstly, it has proposed to remove the reference to violence against women as a violation of human rights, replacing it with: ‘violence against women constitutes a serious obstacle for women’s enjoyment of human rights.’ The Government has offered no explanation for this proposed change. However it is clearly ludicrous. Violence against women is a structural phenomenon which both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women. It has been recognised as a violation of human rights in international law for nearly two decades.

Secondly, the Government wants to amend the document so that it applies only in times of peace and not in times of conflict.

Article 2 as currently drafted reads as follows:

Scope of the Convention

1. This Convention shall apply to all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, which affects women disproportionately.

2. Parties are encouraged to apply this Convention to all victims of domestic violence. Parties shall pay particular attention to women victims of gender-based violence in implementing the provisions of this Convention.

3. This Convention shall apply in times of peace and in situations of armed conflicts

Under the Tories, Britain has proposed to delete the reference to armed conflict in Article 2(3).

This amendment is also totally nonsensical. Studies show that violence against women tends to rise during and after armed conflict. Rape is internationally-recognised as a tool of war, carried out to terrorise the population and destroy communities. In the DRC, rape has been practiced as a means of warfare by all groups in the conflict. In Rwanda, during the 1994 genocide, an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 women were raped. This Convention will be seriously undermined if it only applies in peacetime.

The Coalition has publically stated its commitment to tackling violence against women. Yet behind closed doors it is sabotaging a document intended to ensure robust action to prevent, investigate and prosecute violence against women. We must do all we can to protest against the Coalition’s ill-thought out and damaging proposals.

1 Comment

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One response to “The Coalition is undermining Europe’s deal on violence against women

  1. Daniel Oxley

    Politicians seem to be addicted to impressive sounding declarations conventions and constitutions. I am not sure whether they delude themselves into thinking that these things make a real difference or if they just enjoy involving themselves in the drama of these ‘epoch making’ assertions.

    It is worth remembering that the Council of Europe includes many nations whose record of human rights, justice, call it what you will has been dismal despite all these fine words. One of its member states, Russia executed one of its own citizens without trial right here in London and another one, France persecuted Roma people. They both got away with it.

    The regimes in Maoist China and the Soviet Union along with many other dictatorships had written constitutions giving guarantees of all manner of good things such as religious freedom, freedom of expression, etc. but as we know these rights were routinely abused.

    I used to admire the Magna Carter and or Bill of Rights but the guarantees enshrined in them are now overruled every day thanks to our EU membership.

    Perhaps politicians should not concern themselves with enshrining this and that and instead work at getting rid of the old declarations, conventions and constitutions so that the paper work is less confusing and we all know where we stand. When the Israelites broke their covenant, Moses smashed up the tablets of stone on which the document was written. Isn’t it time to do the same with our backlog of declarations, charters, conventions and constitutions?

    Politicians do like to overwrite laws again and again. They do not seem to get it that it is the will to uphold laws which is the key. Take for example the widespread problem of binge-drinking which makes the centres of our cities and towns so unpleasant and which creates mayhem and distress for any sober person seeking medical attention at an A&E department on a Saturday night.

    Forests have felled to supply the paper for all the opinions about changes to the existing laws; the reports about it, the reports of speeches about it, the articles written, the minutes of the committees considering it, etc. but we already have plenty of laws. There is, drunk and disorderly, disturbing the peace, affray, resisting arrest, drinking under the age limit, selling alcohol to an underage person but the problem persists, as does the pontificating. These drunks are not armed with nuclear weapons and even if they were, they would not be in the right state of mind to use them effectively. Why can’t politicians just sort it out?