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.


EU countries need stronger legislation to tackle rape

Crime, european parliament, Gender, Human Rights, photos, prostitution, sexual harrassment, United Kingdom, violence

Sexual violence against women is a most brutal crime, yet still remains a taboo subject in many countries.  It is estimated that almost every other woman in Europe suffers gender-based violence at some point in her life, with 1 in 5 victims of male domestic violence, and 1 in 10 victims of rape or forced sexual acts.

 Yet across the EU rape is one of the least reported crimes, with less than 10% of rapes being reported and far fewer cases ending in a conviction. While rape is criminalised in all 27 EU Member States, some have a broader definition of rape than others. Many EU countries still require proof of physical resistance or do not cover all forms of rape.

 I was therefore very happy to host an event at the European Parliament this morning to launch the latest report into how EU countries are tackling this hateful crime.

Hosting event to launch EWL Barometer on Rape 2103

Hosting event at European Parliament to launch 2013 EWL Barometer on Rape

The European Women’s Lobby Barometer on Rape 2013 looks at legislation and data collection in 32 countries. It compares them with the minimum standards for sexual violence and rape set by the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, adopted in 2011 and currently being ratified).

The EWL found that just 5 countries have legislation that corresponds to the Istanbul Convention definition: the UK and the Netherlands who have “better legislation”, and Ireland, Italy and Turkey who meet minimum standards. The majority of countries (21) need to improve their legislation, recognising lack of consent as an essential element in determining rape and sexual abuse. Six countries need to urgently change their laws (Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Serbia and Ukraine).