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Istanbul Convention and Disabled Women

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence – The Istanbul Convention[1]

  • The Convention was opened in Istanbul in May 2011
  • The Convention entry into force can be dated to August 2014
  • The UK signed the Istanbul Convention in 2012 to signal the UK’s strong commitment to tackling violence against women and girls but it needs to be ratified. See this blog from ICChange.

What is the Istanbul Convention?

  • The Convention was a treaty of the Council of Europe that instigated the creation of a legal framework, at a pan-European level, to protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute, and eliminate violence against women
  • The Convention established a specific monitoring mechanism under article 66, to ensure effective implementation of its provisions by the Parties that have ratified it[2]
  • This monitoring mechanism is called GREVIO, the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence
  • GREVIO must be composed between ten and fifteen members, such members must account for a gender and geographical balance, as well as multidisciplinary expertise
  • It is the first legally binding treaty in Europe that criminalises different forms of violence against women, including physical and psychological violence, sexual violence, secual harassment and rape, stalking, female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, forced abortion, and forced sterilisation[3]
  • The convention recognises that women experience multiple forms of discrimination, it requires State parties to ensure that the implementation of the Istanbul Convention is made without discrimination on any grounds, such as sex, gender, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, state of health, disability, marital status, migrant or refugee status or other[4]

How does the Convention affect disabled women?

  • The implementation of the Istanbul Convention serves to benefit women’s lives in Europe, including disabled women and girls, and alleviate the gendered violence many women and girls face
  • The information on the members of GREVIO, indicate that there are perhaps only 2 members who represent/advocate for the interests of disabled women: Biljana Brankovic, Marceline Naudi,
  • This information is from the Curriculum Vitae’s of the members, explaining personal and professional experience/understanding of the specific challenges that disabled women who are victims of gendered violence face[5]
  • Disabled women are two to five times more likely to be victims of gendered violence than non disabled women, they are also more likely to be subjected to forced sterilisation and abortions against their will
  • Accessing justice, support and protection services is often harder for disabled women due to a lack of access and appropriate support such as: many police stations and victim shelters/support facilities are not accessible for women with reduced mobility; sign language interpretation is often not provided for women who are hard of hearing, deaf, or deaf-blind; general information is often unavailable in braille and Easy to Read formats[6]
  • Article 19 denotes that parties are obliged to ensure that victims receive “adequate and timely” information in a language and/or format they understand
  • Article 20 denotes that parties are obliged to take necessary legislative or other measures to ensure appropriate services when assisting victims
  • Article 11 denotes that parties are obliged to support exhaustive research in the field, this research must cover all forms of violence covered by the scope of the convention
  • Article 11 necessitates that parties must conduct population-based surveys regularly to assess the prevalence of and trends in all forms of violence, such as trends in the increased risk of gendered violence against disable women
  • Article 12 reinforces that all parties are obliged to take into account and address the specific needs of any person made vulnerable by particular circumstances
  • Article 13 on raising awareness, necessitates that all parties must ensure the “wide dissemination” of information available to prevent acts of violence
  • This “dissemination” must be inclusive of any format appropriate for women with disabilities that might impact their ability to access such information
  • Article 23 denotes that parties are obliged to take the necessary measures to provide appropriate, and easy to access shelters in sufficient numbers to accommodate for victims
  • Similarly, Article 25 denotes that parties are obliged to take the necessary measures to provide appropriate, easily accessible rape crisis or sexual violence referral centres for victims in sufficient numbers
  • Article 30, on “compensation,” denotes that parties are obliged to take measures to ensure victims have the right to claim compensation
  • This would perhaps be appropriate for a disabled woman who fell victim to gendered violence by their Personal Assistant (PA), carer/s and the like
  • Article 36 dictates that consent must be given voluntarily, as a result of the person’s free will assessed in the context of the surrounding circumstances
  • Article 38 dictates that parties must ensure that any intentional female genital mutilation must be criminalised
  • Article 39 then dictates that abortion and/or sterilisation can only be performed with consent
  • Article 46 considers “aggravating circumstances,” namely particular circumstances that make a woman more vulnerable, such as a disability, when deciding the sentence of the perpetrator
  • The EU is obliged to report to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and undergo periodic review of their implementation of the Convention[7]
  • The EU underwent its first review by the CRPD in 2015
  • This independent review resulted in new recommendations to the EU on how to improve its implementation of the CRPD

[1] https://www.coe.int/fr/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/rms/090000168008482e

[2] https://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/treaty/210

[3] https://www.socialplatform.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/FACTSHEET-FINAL-all-logos-1.pdf

[4] https://www.socialplatform.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/FACTSHEET-FINAL-all-logos-1.pdf

[5] https://www.coe.int/en/web/istanbul-convention/members2

[6] http://www.edf-feph.org/newsroom/news/5-reasons-why-eu-should-ratify-istanbul-convention

[7] https://www.socialplatform.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/FACTSHEET-FINAL-all-logos-1.pdf

[7] https://www.socialplatform.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/FACTSHEET-FINAL-all-logos-1.pdf


The ICChange campaigners outside Parliament Photo from ICChange

Researched by Molly Tonks (volunteer)

young white woman with long brown hair, smiling into the camera

Molly is a History graduate and prospective law student, starting her conversion in September 2020. As a young woman, her interests lie in working with organisations that support and uplift other women

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