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Czech Republic to delay ratification of Istanbul Convention


Prague, Czech Republic – Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blažek said he would ask to postpone the debate on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention until late January 2023.

No debate on Istanbul Convention until 2023, says Czech Minister

Prime Minister Petr Fiala did not say whether or not he was in favour of ratifying the convention against gender-based and domestic violence, according to Denik N.

The new Czech government as a whole, made up of a five-party coalition led by the right-wing conservative ODS which was sworn in last December, has not made its position on the matter clear.

Adopted by the Council of Europe (a 47-member international organisation unrelated to the EU), the so-called Istanbul Convention is an international treaty on domestic violence, sexual harassment, and gender equality.

The Czech Republic signed the document in 2016, but to come into force, it must be ratified by the two houses of Parliament and signed into law by the President.

Successive Czech governments have repeatedly postponed its ratification process.

Justice Ministry spokesman Václav Smolka told Denik N that further discussions are needed before reaching a consensus that would pave the way for a vote on the matter. But critics fear the latest delay is just an excuse to sweep the issue once more under the carpet.

Women’s rights treaty faces resistance in CEE countries

According to its supporters, adoption of the text would greatly expand the scope of assistance offered to victims of gender-based violence, end impunity against perpetrators and help promote initiatives in favour of gender equality at a national level.

Formally known as the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the treaty has sparked heated debates in the Czech Republic and some of its neighbours, including Poland which has previously threatened to withdraw.

Opponents say ratifying the text is unnecessary from a legal point of view, and that domestic provisions against domestic violence currently in force are sufficient.

Conservative critics also oppose the definition of gender given by the convention, which states that gender “shall mean the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men”.

So far, 45 countries plus the European Union have signed the text, and 35 states have completed the ratification process to transpose it into national law.

Countries that haven’t ratified it include the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, and the UK.

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