Istanbul Convention and EU’s accession: Why did It Take the EU 12 years to ratify?

The accession of the European Union to the Istanbul Convention promises a stronger fight for women against domestic violence. What were (and still are) the obstacles and reservations by its’ members?

Last Thursday, the 1st of June, the EU has made a significant step forward in protecting all women and girls from violence when the Council of Europe approved the accession of the EU to the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, more commonly known as the Istanbul Convention.

According to the WHO about 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence and as stated by the European Parliament, 55% of women in the EU have experienced sexual harassment at least once since the age of 15, while 1 in 20 women has been raped. These numbers demonstrate the urgent need for more preventive measures, stronger support for victims, better policies and improved prosecution procedures, which the Istanbul Convention strives for. But while the human rights treaty of the Council of Europe already opened for signature in May 2011 and came into force in 2014, it nonetheless took 12 years in total, 6 years after signing it in 2017 and a decision by the Court of Justice, for the EU as a whole to ratify the Convention. Despite several requests from the European Parliament, reservations by EU members, misconceptions and the spread of false narratives prevented several ratifications on national levels. Even the name “Istanbul” Convention seems misleading nowadays since the host state Turkey withdrew from the Convention itself two years ago.

The legally binding Istanbul Convention

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