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Istanbul Convention ratified

Two years after Poland’s signing the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women, the Sejm enacted a law ratifying this international instrument. Before the vote, a heated discussion took place in a parliamentary committee. Some deputies thought that when ratified, the Convention could pose a threat to Polish tradition and culture.

The Convention, developed within the framework of the Council of Europe, imposes a number of obligations on states, which were designed to tackle violence against women and domestic violence. In the course of parliamentary works, arguments were raised that the Convention was unconstitutional and posed a threat to the Polish tradition and family.

In December last year, the HFHR prepared an opinion, pointing to the fact that “The Istanbul Convention conforms to the Polish Constitution and its ratification is reasonable for the purposes of the effective prevention and combating violence against women and domestic violence” (to read the opinion, use this link).

One of the Convention obligations is promoting “changes in the social and cultural patterns of behaviour of women and men”. In its opinion, the HFHR noted that it was domestic authorities who would decide which stereotypes are to be deemed negative and which changes – social and cultural – in behavioural patterns of women and men are to be promoted.

“Therefore, the Convention does not specify the content of social norms which determine the roles or behaviour of women and men, leaving the state-parties a significant area of discretion in this respect”, says Barbara Grabowska-Moroz, a lawyer working with the Helsinki Foundation. “The Convention prohibits promotion of the roles, behaviours, actions or attributes that consolidate the idea of the inferiority of women. Indeed, one of the Convention obligations is to eliminate the social norms that legitimise violence against women, including domestic violence”, Ms Grabowska-Moroz adds.

The ratifying act will now be sent to the Senate. If Senators vote in favour of the Convention, it will be presented for the President’s signature. “We will certainly be monitoring further legislative works related to the Convention”, Dr Adam Bodnar, HFHR Deputy President, declares.


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