UK must ratify the Istanbul Convention

Labour Party

As day two of the Brexit Withdrawal Bill continues I and my colleagues are in Strasbourg carrying on the business and work of the European Parliament.

Today we are debating the Istanbul Convention and MEPs will hear an update from the Commission and Council on the EU’s progress in implementing the Istanbul Convention, which it signed a year ago.

Several EU countries, including the UK, have not yet ratified the convention, which requires countries to criminalise all forms of violence against women, including stalking, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced abortion and sterilisation.

The European Parliament recently backed a resolution calling on the EU and all national governments to ratify the convention, and for greater law-enforcement cooperation between countries.

While the European Parliament is urging all EU national governments to ratify the convention countries like Croatia are challenging its very premise. Although it has ratified the Treaty, a conservative group in the country has launched a campaign to abolish the Treaty all together. It has now collected enough signatures to call a referendum under the Croatian constitution.

The group is concerned that the convention promoted the so-called “gender ideology” and that it affects basic traditional and cultural legal aspects of Croatian society.

Why is the UK dragging its feet having signed the convention in 2012? In a report published in November 2017, the UK Government said it “will only take steps toward ratification when we are absolutely satisfied that the UK complies with all articles of the Convention”. This is now six years on from when it first signed the convention and that should be time enough to ensure the UK has its house in order.

The UK must ratify the convention with urgency to ensure that women are protected not just in the UK but across the EU. In ratifying this convention, it will also help to combat trafficking which as we know continues to be a problem across Europe.