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Ireland must sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention to fight violence against women and girls

1st August 2014, 10:25:45 UTC

As the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention came into force today (1 August), Amnesty International called on Ireland to swiftly sign and ratify it.

The Convention is an important new framework for all European governments to prevent and combat violence against women and girls, as well as domestic violence.

“Woman and girls across Europe are beaten, raped, harassed or subjected to female genital mutilation or forced marriage. Many suffer in silence as they are denied the means to extricate themselves from situations they view as hopeless. Europe must wake up to this reality,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland. “

Woman and girls across Europe are beaten, raped, harassed or subjected to female genital mutilation or forced marriage. Many suffer in silence as they are denied the means to extricate themselves from situations they view as hopeless. Europe must wake up to this reality

Colm O'Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland

The Istanbul Convention is a powerful tool to tackle comprehensively this human rights abuse which blights the lives of millions of women and girls across Europe. Ratifying and implementing the Convention is not a question of states granting special rights to women and girls – it is about remedying existing injustices and preventing further violations of their human rights.

“With the Convention now having 36 signatures and 14 ratifications, Ireland is coming late to the table. We welcome recent statements by the new Minister for Justice and Equality that Ireland will now move quickly to signing the Convention. But her stated commitment to prioritise legislation needed to ratify the Convention must lead to real action.

“Ratifying this Convention would not only ensure that Irish law, policy and services are brought up to best practice standards. Ireland would also be subjecting its track record to scrutiny by the group of experts established under the Convention. This would bring improved accountability and sharing of good practice with other states.”

The problem 

 Physical, sexual and psychological violence against women is an extensive human rights abuse in all Council of Europe Member States. Statistics in Ireland confirm that it remains a serious issue nationally too.

According to a recent report by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, Violence against women: an EU-wide survey, one in three women (33 per cent or 62 million women) across the 28 EU Member States has suffered physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. The figure for Ireland was 26 per cent.

An estimated 500,000 women and girls in the EU alone have suffered from female genital mutilation (FGM), while an additional 180,000 are at risk each year. The largest numbers of women and girls originating from countries where this human right abuse is practised live in the UK, Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium.

“While we welcome Ireland’s enacting legislation in 2012 to criminalise FGM, legislation alone is not enough. Ireland needs to adopt a domestic FGM action plan. Ratifying the Istanbul Convention would aid Ireland in sharing best practice in effectively preventing FGM,” said Colm O’Gorman.


 The Convention, adopted in Istanbul by all 47 Council of Europe Member States on 11 May 2011, is the first European treaty specifically targeting violence against women and domestic violence. It sets out minimum standards on prevention, protection, prosecution and the development of integrated policies. Countries ratifying the treaty are obligated to protect and support victims of such violence.

They must also establish services such as hotlines, shelters, medical services, counselling and legal aid.

To date, more than three-quarters (36 of 47) of the countries that are Council of Europe members have signed the Convention and 14 of them have also ratified it: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, France, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. Within the coming months, a mechanism – referred to as GREVIO -will be established to monitor the implementation of the Convention by Member States.

Parties to the Convention provide information to GREVIO on how they are implementing the Convention, upon which GREVIO will make suggestions and recommendations in respect of any problems it identifies. GREVIO may also conduct official country visits

Amnesty International was instrumental in the process of drafting the Convention, by providing information based on the experience of NGOs in working with survivors of gender-based violence, as well as best practices, existing obligations under international human rights law and standards. This treaty is therefore a reflection of core international standards and the views of civil society.

Governments bound by the Convention will have to take a number of measures, including to:

· Address gender stereotypes and promote changes in mentality and attitudes about the role of women and girls in society;

· Train professionals to work with survivors or women at risk of violence and work closely with specialised NGOs;

· Provide for both general and specialist support services which are appropriate and accessible for women and girls, including services for physical and      psychological support, shelters, sexual violence referral centres and free 24/7 telephone helplines;

· Develop a gender-sensitive asylum system – the obligation to protect includes the right to international protection.
My Body My Rights is Amnesty International’s global campaign to stop governmental control and criminalisation of sexuality and reproduction. During 2014 and 2015 the campaign is working for change in people’s lives in a number of countries, including Ireland. This campaign aims to remind world leaders of their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil sexual and reproductive rights. For more information see: https://www.amnesty.ie/mybodymyrightsrights 

The END FGM European campaign is a partnership created in 2009 between Amnesty International and community-based and women’s rights organisations in EU Member States. It advocates for a holistic approach to ending female genital mutilation (FGM) at European level. As a result, in 2013 theEU adopted a plan of action on FGM. 

In 2014, the END FGM European Network was created to continue the work of the campaign. By advocating for a human rights-based response to FGM, it will seek to ensure FGM remains high on the European agenda and that commitments to end the practice are implemented in Europe and beyond. For more information see: http://www.endfgm.eu/en/