What is the Istanbul Convention anyway?

The Istanbul Convention is a Council of Europe legal framework for tackling violence against women and girls. In a nutshell, it’s all the best ideas we have to tackle gender-based violence, distilled into one amazing document. The Istanbul Convention creates minimum standards for governments to deal with violence against women and girls, and sets out what governments should to do prevent violence, protect victims, and prosecute perpetrators. It’s based on decades of expertise and evidence about what works to tackle gender-based violence. It’s also legally-binding, so any government that ratifies it (brings it into law) must comply with it.

Has the UK ratified the Istanbul Convention?

Not yet. The government signed it in 2012, but has yet to take the final step of ratifying it so that it’s brought into law here. Without ratifying it, the Istanbul Convention is little more than a piece of paper for women and girls in the UK. The government has been promising to ratify the Convention for four years – we think we’ve waited long enough.

So how do we get Government to ratify it?

A Bill (potential law) to ratify the Istanbul Convention is due to be debated in Parliament on Friday 16th December. For the Bill to pass to the next stage of becoming a law, it needs 100 MPs to vote in favour of it. The only problem? The vote is happening on a Friday, which is the day that MPs usually go home to their local constituencies. And it’s the last Friday before Christmas break. So we need as many people as possible to get in touch with their MPs and tell them to show up and vote. If enough MPs realise that this is an important issue for their constituents and for the UK, they will stay and vote.

How can i get in touch with my MP?

To find out who your local MP is, and how to contact them, go to https://www.writetothem.com/. Put in your postcode, select your MP, and use the handy form to write and send them an email. You can either write your own email, or you can use our template letter if you’re stuck for time.

I’m not a victim of gender-based violence or a woman, so it’s got nothing to do with me, right?

Wrong. The Istanbul Convention will make a real difference to the lives of women and girls in the UK who experience gender-based violence. And since 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lives, and 1 in 5 women will be raped or suffer some form of sexual abuse from the age of 16, there’s a real chance that you or someone you care about could benefit from the Istanbul Convention. It could help you, a family member, a friend, or a colleague. We all have a responsibility to end violence against women, and making sure the UK Government ratifies the Istanbul Convention is a great way to stand in solidarity with all victims of gender-based violence and the women and girls in your lives.

But aren’t we leaving the EU?

The Istanbul Convention is NOT an EU law. It was put together by the Council of Europe, which the UK is a part of, and will still be a part of even after we leave the EU. So even after the UK left the EU, the Istanbul Convention would still be law.

What is gender-based violence?

Gender-based violence is violence or abuse that is directed against a woman because she is a woman, or that affects women disproportionately. It includes domestic violence and abuse, sexual violence and abuse, human trafficking and sexual exploitation, so-called ‘honour’-based violence, female genital mutilation, child and forced marriage, stalking, and online harassment and abuse.

While men can also be victims of many of these forms of violence, the majority of victims are women and girls. The reason for this is that much violence against women happens because of historical or existing gender inequality, or the belief that women should be inferior to and obedient to men. And while we have come a long way in the last number of years, it wasn’t so long ago that women had to give up their jobs when they got married, or were told that it was their duty to put up with domestic violence, or that there was no such thing as rape if you were married. Even today in the UK, women continue to be asked what they did to ‘provoke’ their domestic abuser, or are asked about their sexual history in court as if that bears any relevance to whether they were raped or not. Women continue to be harassed in the streets, in the workplace and online, and face rape and death threats for voicing their opinions or daring to work in a male-dominated industry. A woman is killed every three days by a man in the UK. So we are not living in a post-sexist society by any means. But measures like the Istanbul Convention will bring the UK a further, significant step towards being a society where all women and men are respected, equal and safe.

 OK, I’m on board! What else can i do?

If you have already contacted your MP and want to do more, why not ask your friends and family to contact their MPs as well? Or raise awareness about the Istanbul Convention on your Twitter, Facebook or blog feed? And if you’re looking for more ways to help out, head over to the IC Change campaign website, where you can find details on other ways to get involved.