Mon. Apr 15th, 2024

Czech Government Moves Closer to Ratifying Istanbul Convention Against Violence on Women

Istanbul agreement - women's rights - protest

The Czech government has granted approval for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. The decision was made on Wednesday, and now the document will be presented to the Chamber of Deputies for a final determination.

Among the European Union member states, the Czech Republic belongs to a minority of six countries that have not yet ratified the Istanbul Convention. The other countries in this group are Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, Latvia, and Lithuania. However, the Czech Republic is the only one among them where discussions regarding the convention are progressing towards adoption.

After the government meeting on Wednesday, Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan (STAN) tweeted, “We have approved the ratification of the Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Violence. Any step that helps prevent sexualized violence and violence against women is a good step.” Rakušan further expressed hope that the Chamber of Deputies would soon pass the convention, emphasizing its potential to foster a more sensitive approach to assisting victims.

While the Czech Republic signed the Istanbul Convention in 2016, parliamentary voting on the matter had been delayed until now.

The outcome of the convention’s ratification in parliament remains uncertain, given the current division within the Czech five-party coalition government. Centrist parties such as STAN, Czech Pirates (affiliated with Greens/EFA), and TOP 09 (affiliated with EPP) support the convention, while ODS (affiliated with ECR) and KDU-ČSL (affiliated with EPP) are primarily opposed to it. Furthermore, even within individual political parties, members of parliament hold diverse views on the subject.

The Istanbul Convention, adopted in 2011 and signed in 2016 during the previous Czech government led by Andrej Babis (ANO), has sparked strong emotions in the Czech Republic, with opposition from conservatives and seven Christian churches.

Advocates of the convention argue that it will enhance support for victims and send a clear message that violence is unacceptable. Previous governments had postponed its ratification due to controversies surrounding its wording. Some current ministers have also called for further postponement.

The current coalition government has stated in its policy that the convention will ensure better protection for victims of sexual and domestic violence.

The convention explicitly condemns domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, forced marriage, honor crimes, and genital mutilation. It highlights the disproportionate victimization of women in domestic and sexual violence, as well as in mass rape during armed conflicts.

According to data from the national domestic violence prevention plan, the Czech Republic suffers an annual loss of at least 14.5 billion crowns due to domestic attacks, resulting in work absences and healthcare expenses. Approximately 600 rape cases are reported to the police each year, though surveys suggest this accounts for only about 5% of all cases.


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