The Polish government has announced its intention to renounce an international treaty on violence against women, known as the “Istanbul Convention”. Franceinfo explains the reasons for this.
A European treaty to fight against violence against women? Superfluous, for the very conservative Polish Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ziobro. The latter announced, Saturday, July 25, his plan to withdraw from the “Istanbul Convention”, an international treaty established by the Council of Europe to protect the status of women in the signatory states. “It is enough to read the Holy Scriptures to know that a woman is not beaten, it is not necessary to adhere to a convention motivated by distorted ideologies”, said Zbigniew Ziobro, according to comments reported by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica (in Italian). In reality, the Polish government is defending a social project that is head-on opposed to the values of this treaty. Franceinfo summarizes this break in four questions.
1What is the European treaty against violence against women?
It is the first legally binding instrument established at European level to combat violence against women. Adopted in Istanbul in 2011, and signed to date by 45 members of the Council of Europe, the treaty commits the states which have ratified it to criminalize certain offenses against women, in particular domestic violence. Among them, physical, sexual or psychological violence, forced marriages, forced abortions and genital mutilation.
The text does not stop at qualified violence, but recognizes a “structural nature of violence” based on “genre”, defined in article 3 as “socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes”. The signatory countries thus undertake to undertake programs to “eliminate all forms of discrimination against women”.
2Why is the text a problem in Poland?
“It contains elements of an ideological nature which we consider harmful”said Zbigniew Ziobro. Less than the legal aspect, it is the term “kind” and its implications which disturb the current conservative government, led by the PiS (Law and Justice party) and close to the Catholic Church. In 2012, when Poland signed this treaty (ratified three years later by Warsaw), Zbigniew Ziobro had already qualified this text, considered too liberal, “of invention, a feminist creation that aims to justify gay ideology”.
“Conservative Polish circles refute the idea of a culturally constructed role. There is an absolute rejection of any debate on this subject.”, analysis for Franceinfo Dorota Dakowska, Franco-Polish political scientist. It is therefore unthinkable to include in school curricula the education for gender equality advocated by the “Istanbul Convention”.
Since coming to power, the PiS has attached itself to a so-called “traditional” conception of the housewife. From now on, women who have had at least four children benefit, for example, from financial support, on condition that they give up their professional activity to devote themselves to the education of their children. “Since 2015, Poland has cut grants to NGOs defending women’s rights and closed some hotlines”adds Dorota Dakowska. “They are in denial of structural violence, which they consider to be a marginal sociological phenomenon”, she explains again.
3How is the advertisement perceived in the country?
As early as Friday, the announcement of a possible withdrawal from the treaty led thousands of people to the streets of Warsaw. “PiS is the hell of women”, could we read on the banners. “The aim is to legalize domestic violence”, said on Friday Magdalena Lempart, one of the organizers of the demonstration in the Polish capital.
The text also divides between the government and the majority: if thehe Deputy Prime Minister responsible for the Economy, Jadwiga Emilewicz, and the Minister of Labor, Marlena Maciag, support the withdrawal plan, the party preferred to remain cautious. Michal Dworczyk, chief of the Prime Minister’s office, told Polish channel Polsat that there was still “no official and unambiguous decision” On the question.
“Polish society is deeply divided between Catholic conservatives and liberals”, decrypts Dorota Dakowska. These totally opposing ideological movements clashed during the recent presidential election. Conservative President Andrzej Duda was finally returned on July 12, with 51% of the vote against his liberal opponent Rafal Trzaskowski after an extremely polarized campaign.
“Polish conservatism is not innate. During the many wars that Poland has known, women have long held so-called ‘male’ jobs and the country has had several prime ministers since 1989”, notes the researcher. The voices of militant feminist movements carry more and more. To the point, last spring, of making the government back down on its anti-abortion bill, which restricted access to abortion already very limited.
4What other countries reject the treaty?
In addition to Russia and Azerbaijan, who had not wanted to sign the Istanbul Convention as soon as it was drafted, Viktor Orban’s Hungary refused in May to ratify the text, perceived by the government as a promotion of “the destructive ideology of gender”, AFP reported. The Slovak Parliament, for its part, rejected the treaty in 2019, like Bulgaria a year earlier.
The Warsaw decision displeases more than one in Brussels. MEPs have sent a shower of criticism to the Polish government. “Violence is not a traditional value”, tweeted Guy Verhofstadt, member of the Renew parliamentary group and former Belgian Prime Minister.
Scandalous decision by Polish government to leave #IstanbulConvention. Violence is not a traditional value. EU and all of its members signed, because Europe stands for human rights, equality and decency. https://t.co/YskEiVTnfmAdvertisement
– Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) July 26, 2020
“It is shameful that an EU member state wants to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention”, for his part, was indignant, also on the social network, the Spanish Iratxe Garcia Pérez, president of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament. She said to herself “alongside Polish citizens who take to the streets to demand respect for women’s rights”.