The Istanbul Convention under threat

On its 10th anniversary, the first ever legally binding agreement on preventing and addressing violence against women in Europe is under more threat than ever.

Petra Tötterman Andorff, secretary-general at The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, on the topic of the Istanbul Convention. Photo: Viktor Gårdsäter
Petra Tötterman Andorff, secretary-general at The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, on the topic of the Istanbul Convention. Photo: Viktor Gårdsäter

Today, May 11th, marks the 10th anniversary of the Istanbul Convention. It’s, however, not a reason for celebration, but rather a time to seek renewed commitment amongst the signatories.

Important tool to improve legislation

When it was adopted, the Istanbul convention was welcomed by essentially all countries in Europe and the neighbouring region, and it was signed by all EU member states. The convention with its four pillars on prevention, protection, prosecution and integrated policies quickly became the most important tool to improve national legislations on domestic violence around Europe. However, ten years on we are seeing a worrying trend where more and more countries and political leaders are starting to waiver on their commitments and in March Turkey’s president decided to leave the convention.

The decision was met with outrage and widespread demonstrations by the women’s movement in Turkey as well as condemnations from many world leaders. President Erdoğan explained his decision by claiming that the convention has been hijacked by groups that promotes homosexuality and that it’s not compatible with Turkish family values. This rhetoric and misrepresentation of what the convention is unfortunately something which is repeated by the anti-gender movement and ultraconservative politicians throughout the region.

Misinformation campaigns

In fact, in the last few years the anti-gender movement, which consist of religious, ultra-conservative and nationalist groups have launched campaigns against the convention all around Europe. Through these campaigns they have spread misinformation and myths claiming that the convention leads to more divorces, destroys the family unit and promotes homosexuality.

Unfortunately, these campaigns have in some cases influenced the public debate about the convention and given ultraconservative leaders an alibi to pull out or abstain from ratifying the convention. Amongst the EU-countries that are currently abstaining from ratifying the convention we find Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Lithuania and Latvia. The ultra-conservative Polish government, that recently introduced a ban on abortions in Poland, have announced they want to leave the convention, as it is not compatible with Catholicism and traditional family values.

A convention which saves lives

The Istanbul Convention is meeting fierce resistance by the anti-gender-movement, and this at a time when many countries are seeing spikes in the violence against women. This is a very serious development and not something that can be ignored. We know that this convention saves women’s lives and together with the women’s movement across the region The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation will keep fighting for the ratification and the implementation of the convention until every woman has the right to live her life free from violence.


Petra Tötterman Andorff

11 May 2021