Parliamentarians must give higher political priority to fighting sexism and violence against women

During an exchange of views in PACE's Standing Committee, ahead of International Women’s Day, Feride Acar, President of the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO), said that the positive impact of the implementation of the Istanbul Convention was already visible.

“Laws are being changed, specific criminal offences are being introduced, and protection services for victims have also increased, ranging from national telephone helplines to shelters for domestic violence victims,” she said. She also welcomed the constructive approach that the States Parties to the Istanbul Convention have taken to the evaluation reports concerning them.

Ms Acar also recalled that the backlash against the Istanbul Convention had negatively impacted the ratification process. “We have witnessed attempts to hinder progress with the signature and ratification of the Convention through the spreading of misconceptions about the scope of the Convention. But there is no hidden agenda in the Istanbul Convention, whose objective is first and foremost to stop violence against women and domestic violence,” she said.

She called on parliamentarians to join forces to put the Istanbul Convention high on the political agenda, counter negative narratives, garner support for its ratification and ensure its implementation in practice.

“Gender-based violence against women is deeply rooted in discrimination against women that continues to shape the lives of female politicians around the world, with devastating effects not only on the victims but also on democracy itself,” said Dubravka Šimonovic, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, who shared the findings of her thematic report on violence against women in politics, presented to the UN General Assembly in New York in October 2018.

“Women continue to be significantly under-represented at all levels of political decision-making. As of January 2017, only 7.2 per cent of heads of State, 5.7 per cent of heads of government and 23.3 per cent of members of parliament are women,” she said, stressing the need to focus on obstacles to and the root causes of this situation.

Ms Šimonovic made specific recommendations to parliaments, encouraging them to adapt legislation to protect women in politics against violence, including online violence, and to use their oversight powers to ensure its strict implementation. They should also adopt new codes of conduct, stating clearly that there would be zero tolerance in parliament for sexual harassment, intimidation or any other form of violence against women in politics.

Advocating in favour of an equal society which respects the rights of women and men, PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier recalled the #NotInMyParliament initiative she launched at the end of 2018 to combat sexism and harassment in parliaments and in all spheres of society.