2021 marks the tenth anniversary of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on violence against women. In order to celebrate ten years of the treaty, the Council of Europe alongside the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth organised an online conference in Berlin in May (you can watch the recording here). Now the Council of Europe has released a conference report outlining some of the key topics and themes covered during the conference. The report also documents changes that have been introduced by state parties since the Convention was passed and highlights the value of the Convention as well as challenges it still faces from “those promoting a so-called ‘gender ideology’”.
The report using examples outlines how steps such as a “human rights strategy” and “outreach campaigns” within a country can help “communicate the message that non-discrimination and gender equality benefit all in society” and therefore help establish support for the Convention ratification within that country. However, also discussed are the “anti-gender movements (that) have become more powerful”; the report states that “attacks on the Istanbul Convention are now part of a wider, well-organised and extremist global movement against the concept of gender that seeks to roll back human rights in Europe”. It then outlines ways in which this can be responded to amidst the need for the Convention to “be defended against those who deliberately misuse the concept of gender for their own ends.”
The report summarises the afternoon panel of the conference, which was entitled “Combating gender stereotypes and sexism: tackling the roots of gender inequality and
violence against women”. In this session the impact of the 2019 Council of Europe Recommendation on preventing and combating sexism was discussed, as well as the complexity of the subject of sexism, the various ways it manifests in society and affects different women in different ways. The report documents debate around how sufficient legal prohibition is in preventing sexism and the other ways in which this could be achieved as well as further reform that is needed. Examples were provided of effective laws that states have introduced and of initiatives not involving legal regulation but “aimed at public education and social attitudinal change”.
The report also summarises the keynote address by Turkish writer and women’s rights activist, Elif Shafak, which highlighted many of the conference themes. The report then concludes on the impact of the Convention and its development in the face of social and political changes and a global pandemic as well as the challenges posed by these factors.