Saturday, October 16

Violence against women is ‘a pandemic’, warns UN envoy | Women’s rights and gender equality

A decade after the launch of the Istanbul convention, the landmark human rights treaty to stop gender-based violence, women face a global assault on their rights and safety, according to activists.

This week marked 10 years from the first 13 countries registered to the convention, seen as a turning point in efforts to address violence against women.

However, despite 46 countries signing the treaty, the world has been affected by a pandemic of violence against women, exacerbated and exposed by Covid-19, according to a UN envoy.

“The Covid pandemic revealed what was happening before,” said Dubravka Šimonović, UN special rapporteur on violence against women. He said that around the world there has been a marked increase in calls to domestic violence hotlines, reports of missing or murdered women and a lack of safe places for those fleeing abuse.

“We have a pandemic of violence against women that was adequately addressed in a large number of states,” she said.

The rise in violence against women and girls has been reflected in a political backlash against the convention, the first legally binding international framework to prevent domestic violence, protect survivors and promote equality.

In March, faced with widespread national and international condemnation, Turkey, the birthplace of the convention, announced that it would withdraw from the treaty starting in July.

Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention capped years of growing anti-feminist, anti-women, and anti-LGBTQ + rhetoric by its politicians, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has repeatedly stated publicly that he does not believe in equality between men and women, and his government has increasingly linked women’s safety to staying home with their families and having more children.

“We lost a safety net,” said Elif Ege of the Mor Çati women’s shelter organization in Istanbul. “The Istanbul convention was not properly implemented over the years … but that does not mean that it has been completely ineffective; it was an important tool in the hands of feminist organizations ”.

In Ukraine there has been strong opposition to the signing and ratification of the convention by religious groups who perceive it as a threat to “family values”.

Women protest in front of the National Palace in Mexico City on International Women's Day.
Women protest in front of the National Palace in Mexico City on International Women’s Day with posters displaying the names of the victims of femicide. Ten women a day die in Mexico from gender violence. Photograph: Mahe Elipe / Reuters

Halyna Fedkovych and Marta Chumalo of Women’s Perspectives, a Ukrainian women’s rights organization, said they had received twice as many calls for help and that women faced increasing barriers to accessing justice. They point to a recent case in which a woman with a 15-month-old baby had been beaten by her husband. When social services arrived, they scolded her and called her a bad mother because the floor was dirty.

Miroslava Bobáková, co-director of the Slovak-Czech Women’s Fund, said that in Slovakia, which also signed the treaty, the convention is increasingly seen as “an essence of evil.” The situation in the country is especially dire for single mothers, women living in poverty and those from the Roma community.

In Mexico, Ten women die due to gender daily. In Peru, between March and July 2020, there were 11,000 cases of violence against womenAccording to the Ministry of Women, almost 30% of those attacked are under 18 years of age.

In Egypt, which never signed the Istanbul convention, there have been increasing attempts to silence feminist activists for violating so-called family values.

“Not having a public sphere to discuss things brings violence,” said Mozn Hassan of the women’s rights organization Nazra. Both Hassan and his organization face repeated harassment by the state.

However, activists and women’s rights groups have insisted that the Istanbul convention remains a powerful weapon in the fight to end gender-based violence.

“Despite the setbacks, we see improvements,” said Šimonović. Even before ratification, the 34 states that signed [the convention] they have had to implement new laws to protect women. “

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