We live in a world where 70% of women (16 million) have experienced some form of gender-based violence since the age of 15. Whether it be psychological abuse or physical assault, male violence against women and girls is pervasive in our society. Imagine a world where perpetrators of gender-based violence face criminal sanctions or where women can walk home alone at night without fear. This is what the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) sought to work towards. CEDAW, an international treaty enacted in 1981, created a legal framework establishing the rights of women. By way of acknowledging the continuing existence of discrimination against women and blatant violation of basic human rights and dignity, CEDAW began their work to eradicate violent discrimination against women. More than 189 countries signed and ratified the treaty, overseen by a committee to reverie the hoped for eradication of discrimination against women.
CEDAW has brought about increased awareness and changes in public international law, but we still have a very long way to go. This is where we see the creation of The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, in 2011. Different from CEDAW, the Istanbul Convention is the first European legally binding mechanism to prevent and fight against such blatant violations of the rights all women should be entitled to. Not only does the treaty specifically define each form of abuse, but holds each participating country accountable for preventing violence, protecting victims, prosecuting perpetrators, and coordinating policies.
On 1 November 2022, the Istanbul Convention came into force in the UK. The United Kingdom was the 37th State to ratify the Convention in July 2022. However, the Government has reserved Article 59 of the treaty opting out of the state’s duties to protect migrant women. By doing so the Government is also acting against one of the main principles of the convention which requires countries to implement its provisions without discrimination on any grounds, to ensure no one is left behind.
The Convention has already made an impact on other countries. For instance, Denmark and Sweden have changed their legal definition of rape, which is now based on lack of consent rather than the use force. Furthermore, many countries, notably Finland, have allocated state funding for shelters for survivors of domestic violence while other countries have established national helplines for those needing support.
The law is supposed to protect us, but it is failing women miserably. While we have seen changes to legislation through CEDAW and the Istanbul Convention, women are still not safe. Right to Equality stands with all survivors of discrimination and domestic violence and seeks to proactively continue this long-standing fight for our rights as women. We will not stop until we are fully recognized as human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. It is time to break this cycle that so deeply penetrates society. Right to Equality calls for all people to stand with us in the fight to eradicate gender discrimination because people united will never be defeated.