Britain urged to back new European treaty to protect victims of forced marriage, domestic violence and stalking

Britain is being heavily urged to ratify the Council of Europe’s new convention, which seeks to enforce much harsher measures to ensure the safety of female victims of forced marriage, sexual harassment, domestic violence and stalking.

The new treaty, otherwise known as the Istanbul Convention because it was opened for signatures in the Turkish capital three years ago, has been signed in agreement by the UK government, but they have as of yet failed to take the necessary steps to ratify it – or implement it in our British law.

Global women’s rights advocate for the campaign group Human Rights Watch, Gauri van Gulik, has suggested that our government’s failure to do this so far indicates “that there’s not enough political will to push it through.”

But despite this, ministers of the government do claim to back the notion of preventing female suffering across the continent, especially having hosted the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict recently. But Gulik claims that the dedication andenthusiasm witnessed at the summit hasn’t been followed through elsewhere inthe government. “We haven’t seen the same kind of fervour as we’ve seenwith [William] Hague at the summit,” she said.

So far, 14 European states have implemented the treaty into their national law since it came into force onAugust 1st, including Italy, Turkey and Serbia. But the Secretary General ofthe Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, urges others to follow suit. “All need to act now to improve the lives of the many women and girls who are subjected to violence, simply because of their gender,” he warns.

So what would the convention change? Among many stipulations for consenting states would be the assurance of access to services facilitating recovery from violence for victims, which would include psychological counselling, legal advice, and assistance with finances,education, training and employment.

Governments will also have to regularly run awareness-raising campaigns, take steps to include gender-equality issues on teaching syllabuses, work closely with NGOs, and involve the media in eradicating gender stereotypes and promoting mutual respect.

And Nils Muiznieks, Council of EuropeCommissioner for Human Rights, reminds us of the necessity of the convention.”Violence against women remains one of the most widespread human rightsviolations which take place every day in Europe,” he says.

With an average of 12 women a day being killed in gender-related violence across Europe, according to statistics from the Council of Europe, there is certainly no denying the urgency required.
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