The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence
by Luana Bezzina
The Istanbul Convention was opened for signature on May 11, 2011 in Istanbul Turkey. To date, this regional Convention boasts 14 ratifications and a total of 22 signatures. As of the 1st of August 2014, the Convention has come into force, making its provisions legally binding on all the states which have acceded to the convention.
This convention is only one of a series of initiatives on the part of the Council of Europe to promote the protection of women against violence. The Istanbul Convention is the first legally binding instrument which creates a thorough and comprehensive legal framework, aimed at combating violence against women. Furthermore, it also focuses on the prevention of violence, particularly domestic violence. The Convention is based on what is known as the 4 Ps namely; prevention, protection and support of victims, the prosecution of offenders, which is of extreme importance in order to curb perpetrator impunity, and integrated policies.
An important aspect of the Convention is that once ratified, the provisions of the Convention apply in times of peace and also in times of armed conflicts, when violence is in the form of widespread and/or systematic rape and sexual violence. The Preamble to the Convention states that this legal instrument complements and expands on the standards previously established by other international instruments in this field such as: CEDAW, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Rome Statute, the Geneva Convention and of course the European Convention on Human Rights and the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights on the matter. The Convention initiates by establishing a number of preliminaries namely that while men may also be victims of violence, violence affects women and girls disproportionately and are exposed to a higher risk of gender- based violence.
The Convention acknowledges the structural nature of violence against women as gender-based violence, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position when compared to men. The Convention categorically condemns a wide spectrum of all violent acts such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, forced marriage, crimes committed in the name of “honour” and genital mutilation, all of which constitute serious violations of human rights.
MGG positively hails Malta’s ratification of the Convention.