Istanbul Convention

Latvia isn’t gonna sign a new convention combating violence against women and domestic violence interesting. The reasoning is a bit weird for me, but not unreasonable. What’s really odd, is the convention itself. I’m just gonna pick out some parts that strike me as strange, not everything in the 37 pages.

1 The purposes of this Convention are to: a protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence; b contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and promote substantive equality between women and men, including by empowering women; c design a comprehensive framework, policies and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of violence against women and domestic violence; d promote international co-operation with a view to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence; e provide support and assistance to organisations and law enforcement agencies to effectively co-operate in order to adopt an integrated approach to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence.

Most notably, every purpose of this convention has women (in this case broader used for everyone female) as primary victims and not men. Domestic violence isn’t an issue that needs to be tackled for one sex specifically. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female or your partner is male or female, as soon as it happens, whoever is attacked is the victim. You might as well say “we’ll help anyone who experiences domestic violence in their family” and the outcome wouldn’t change much for women. Why not address everyone affected? Why not help everyone?

1 Parties shall take the necessary measures to promote changes in the social and cultural patterns of behaviour of women and men with a view to eradicating prejudices, customs, traditions and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority of women or on stereotyped roles for women and men.

It’s almost hilarious how this comes soon after the purpose of the convention. I’m all in for tearing down some stereotypes. Let’s start with “men are inherently more violent” that this convention indirectly promotes. Sadly it’s not that easy. Through having testosterone in their body, men are in fact more aggressive. But not every man is aggressive or violent.
On top of that, you can’t just change stereotypes like that. It’s a social progress that spans over generations. Personally I think, I grew up in a very equal environment. I, just like others around me, don’t think of women as inferior. That’s what we’re gonna tell our daughters: Do what you want! But you can’t change the opinion of a grown adult through legislation. As much as some would like to do that, that’s hardly possible.

2 Parties shall take the necessary legislative and other measures to prevent all forms of violence covered by the scope of this Convention by any natural or legal person.

Prevent violence? How? You can’t punish anyone who didn’t commit a crime in our legal systems. If they are violent, they’ve already commited the crime and you can’t prevent it. To prevent something, you have to take actions to not let it happen, like using a condom during intercourse. That however is impossible in case of violence, because it is actively conducted by someone. You can’t prevent an attack, be it in a family, between nations in forms of the declaration of war or in virtual space via hacking. You also can’t build a wall of some sorts between the two parties in a familiar relationship.

4 Parties shall take the necessary measures to encourage all members of society, especially men and boys, to contribute actively to preventing all forms of violence covered by the scope of this Convention. 5 Parties shall ensure that culture, custom, religion, tradition or so-called “honour” shall not be considered as justification for any acts of violence covered by the scope of this Convention.

Yes, we have the human rights, they already cover all forms of violence. Furthermore the 5th paragraph is pretty much moot in the same sense as these human rights, among pretty much every democratic constitution or whatever acts as their substitute, outlaw violence.

1 Parties shall take, where appropriate, the necessary steps to include teaching material on issues such as equality between women and men, non-stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non-violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, gender-based violence against women and the right to personal integrity, adapted to the evolving capacity of learners, in formal curricula and at all levels of education.

Finally something sensible. It isn’t really odd, but I still wanted to highlight it. This should be at the core of our actions. Buildung an understanding, fighting violence, tear down social stigmas. But please also don’t replace them with new ones. If a woman decides to work to feed her family or be the breadwinner in the family, fine. If the woman decides to be a simple housewife, because the earnings of the man are enough, fine. Don’t condemn women who feel comfortable in traditional gender roles, it’s their decision.

2 Parties shall provide or arrange for specialist women’s support services to all women victims of violence and their children.

Where’s the man’s support? Just because men experience it way less doesn’t mean they don’t need it. In fact, they’re currently in more need than women, because they lack these kinds of services.

Interestingly enough, the occurance rate of “woman” in this convention thins out quickly after the a few pages. They’re still indirectly mentioned by the term “scope of this Convention” though.

I don’t really see the point of this convention though. Domestic violence has been an issue even 20 years ago. At least in Germany, a lot has been done to help women who experienced violence. It’s nothing new. It may be new in Asian countries, basically those east of Istanbul, but not so much in the West. I can really see Latvia’s point, as it condemn men more than it help women in most european countries.

Written on June 10, 2017