Weekly report of a young feminist #7: If you’re against rape, you are pro Istanbul Convention.

During the last weekend of February, Slovaks will define the direction of our state in the parliamentary elections. Since this kind of event can’t be ignored, following post will also be slightly related to politics. Now, when the politicians share their views on every aspect of the society, feminist issues become visible also in the small country like Slovakia. For the first time in history, there is a woman with a clearly feminist approach attending the competition. And not for the first time in our history, the far right is trying to garble democratic principles of our state.

Despite the progressive arguments regarding feminism in 2020 elections, reactionary agenda occurs to have the same relevance. Istanbul Convention seems to be present on everyone’s to do list. While liberal parties lobby for ratification, populists spread the bullshit about “gender ideology” mentioned in the convention. Therefore, I’ve decided to read the covenant and provide the short version for you. Furthermore, I would like to ensure you that it wasn’t the most satisfactory reading material but at least it only has twelve pages. Taking into account its establishment in 2011 and ratification by already many states (not only European), it’s surprising that it only became part of political campaign the past few years.

After I’ve read the whole text, I realized that most of the arguments against the convention stem from the people’s unfamiliarity with the topic. Firstly, the IC tries to deal with the violence as such. Indeed, it’s mainly focused on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, however it dedicates several points to protection of men and children. Arguments saying that it fully omits other sexes is not true, but it mainly deals with gender-based violence. This specification of the type of violence is very important here. Because according to statistics and scientific literature, women are victims disproportionately more often than men mainly because of their status in the society. We all know that violence is a problem targeting men as well, however they don’t become preys solely because of their gender. According to Global Gender Gap Report 2020, the global percentage of sexual violence against women reaches 31%. Research shows that women are the most violated in Middle East and North Africa (45%) and least endangered in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (19%).

Secondly, I agree with an argument that we don’t need IC because rape and sexual violence is already considered crime in Slovakia. However, the necessity of the document ratification rather lies in the need of prevention. And I would like to dedicate more space to this point. In my opinion, prevention is the key element of the IC and should be promoted during every political discussion. Chapter III is composed of several articles among which none is forcing the member states into unreasonable regulations.

  • Article 12: General obligations – basically saying that we should erase the traditional perceptions of stereotyped roles of men and women which lead into gender-based violence
  • Article 13: Awareness-raising – member states should increase awareness among the general public about all forms of violence, their consequences and the need to prevent such violence
  • Article 14: Education – every state should create new learning materials which will show the children the mutual respect, equality between men and women, non-violent conflict resolutions etc.
  • Article 15: Training of professionals – parties should establish a training program for relevant professionals, who will make sure that the equality is maintained, and violence erased
  • Article 16: Preventive intention and treatment programmes – states should support programmes which will teach the perpetrators of domestic violence to adopt non-violent behaviour and prevent sex offenders from re-offending
  • Article 17: Participation of the private sector and the media – engagement of NGOs and media in the process of prevention of various forms of violence

Thirdly, apart from sexual violence, IC focuses on obliteration of other forms of violation of human rights, especially of women’s rights. It includes stalking, physical violence, sexual violence, non-consensual sexual acts (rape), forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced abortion and forced sterilisation, sexual harassment (verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of person). Quite important stuff, right? Afterward, the document describes forms of investigation, prosecution, procedural law and protective measures. However, I didn’t come across any negative restrictions which would be destructive for the states which ratify the convention.

Finally, argument saying that Istanbul Convention might not be eventually beneficial for a state might be true. However, it’s the only document which tries to solve the problem of constant rapes, widespread domestic violence and gender-based violence. If we always say that women are not equally represented in the public institutions because of their weak nature, why don’t we say the same thing when implementing the documents which are trying to protect those weak women. Usually people say that the feminist bend the reality to convenient shape. I’m saying that patriarchal society is doing the same with women’s rights. Therefore, choose if we’re too weak to be equal integrant of any public sphere and if so, then implement rules and laws which will protect us. Indeed, I would love to protect men from violence as well, but first we have to teach people that violence in general is unexpectable. Only then, we all might be capable of relationships full of care and respect.

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