From the Council of Europe website:

“On 7 April 2011, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted of a landmark new Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Convention CETS No. 210).

This Convention is the first legally binding instrument in the world creating a comprehensive legal framework to prevent violence, to protect victims and to end with the impunity of perpetrators. It defines and criminalises various forms of violence against women (including forced marriage, female genital mutilation, stalking, physical and psychological violence and sexual violence).

It also foresees the establishment of an international group of independent experts to monitor its implementation at national level.

The Convention was opened for signature in Istanbul on 11 May 2011 and was signed by 13 countries.”

The convention (CAHVIO) has now been signed by 17 countries. But guess which country still hasn’t signed…..

Yep. The UK government has not signed the landmark new convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

Here’s a link to the convention – Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence

And here’s the explanatory report – Explanatory report

It all looks pretty sound to me. Here are just a few passages from the explanatory report:

“1. Violence against women, including domestic violence, is one of the most serious forms of gender-based violations of human rights in Europe that is still shrouded in silence. Domestic violence – against other victims such as children, men and the elderly – is also a hidden phenomenon which affects too many families to be ignored.

2. Prevalence rates for Europe do not exist, but many member states have increasingly conducted surveys to measure the extent of violence against women nationally. Although methodologies vary, an overview of these surveys suggests that across countries, one-fifth to one-quarter of all women have experienced physical violence at least once during their adult lives and more than one-tenth have suffered sexual violence involving the use of force. Figures for all forms of violence, including stalking, are as high as 45%. The majority of such violent acts are carried out by men in their immediate social environment, most often by partners and ex-partners.

3. Secondary data analysis support a conservative estimate that about 12% to 15% of all women have been in a relationship of domestic abuse after the age of 16. Many more continue to suffer physical and sexual violence from former partners even after the break-up, indicating that, for a large number of women, ending an abusive relationship does not necessarily mean physical safety.

7. One of the primary concerns of the Council of Europe, representing 47 member states and their 800 million citizens, is to safeguard and protect human rights. Violence against women, including domestic violence, undermines the core values on which the Council of Europe is based.

21. Building on Recommendation Rec(2002)5 on the protection of women against violence, the Convention sets, for the first time in Europe, legally-binding standards to prevent violence against women and domestic violence, protect its victims and punish the perpetrators. It fills a significant gap in human rights protection for women and encourages Parties to extend its protection to all victims of domestic violence. It nonetheless frames the eradication of violence against women in the wider context of achieving substantive equality between women and men and thus significantly furthers recognition of violence against women as a form of discrimination.” (my emphasis)

I have no idea why the UK has so far failed to sign up to this, although I suspect the clue is here in this explanatory leaflet:

“It will contain comprehensive obligations to improve the criminal law response to violence against women and domestic violence and to expand protective measures such as restraining and barring orders. Moreover, it will help to enhance the role of law enforcement agencies in responding to calls for assistance. In this regard, the drafting process is inspired by case-law from the European Court of Human Rights and jurisprudence of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on violence against women.

In addition to measures in criminal and civil law, the convention will comprise important obligations to offer adequate support and protection to all victims of violence against women and domestic violence. Hotlines, shelters, counselling, medical and forensic services as well as legal aid are crucial for victims to find help and recover, but also to stay safe and seek justice.”

Legal aid? The government’s cutting that isn’t it, as well as the specialist domestic violence and other services that the convention states are ‘crucial for victims to find help and recover’. The government’s probably too embarrassed to sign the convention then, as it knows that thanks to its current cuts agenda that disproportionately impacts on women, it doesn’t have a hope in hell of meeting the convention’s obligations.

You can sign the petition to Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone, asking her to commit the UK to signing the CAHVIO convention, on the TUC website – here’s the link.

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