• Paula Alionyte

It’s time to #ChangeHerStory, it’s time to ratify the Istanbul Convention!

Guest blog by Louise Jenkins, member of the Fair Development Collective and Women’s and Girls’ Rights Independent Consultant. Original post can be seen here.

On the 16th December 2016, 135 MPs showed up to the second reading of the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill, which calls on the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention. Despite misogynistic Philip Davies’ attempt to block the Bill with his shameful filibustering, the Bill made it into committee stage. The Bill is now set for its third reading on Friday 24th February 2017.

Why do we need to ratify the Istanbul Convention?

Last November saw the launch of the first Femicide Census report which showed 936 women were killed by men, in England and Wales, between 2009- 2015. Furthermore, the report found;

  • 598 women were killed by their current or former partners

  • 75 women were killed by their sons

  • 149 women killed were aged over 66

We continue to read in the press how the killings of women, especially within a domestic situation, are ‘isolated incidents’. I find this rhetoric problematic as it minimises the issue of violence against women and fails to join the dots and highlight patterns of behaviour. We need to change the narrative to one which states that violence against women and girls is not inevitable and that it is a society-wide issue.

Over the years I have been fortunate to work alongside incredibly passionate and dedicated sisters in the fight to end violence against women, working in frontline, training, policy and research capacities. I have seen first-hand the impact specialist, women led and women only support services have had on women and girls fleeing and at risk of violence. These specialist services are carrying out life-saving and life-changing work to support women and girls within our communities. However, as a result of the continued cuts to services funding is proving a greater challenge than ever before and we are seeing specialist services closing at a speed which is quite frankly frightening and incredibly dangerous.

The Istanbul Convention (Council of Europe Convention on prevention and combating violence against women and domestic violence) is the most comprehensive legal framework on combating violence against women and girls, outlining fundamental principles relating to the provision of specialist services, including refuges, rape crisis centres and counselling, all of which I have seen be incredible life lines for women fleeing violence. Furthermore, the convention mandates the protection of women from many forms of violence including domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, including in the sex industry, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, stalking and forced sterilisation. Minimum standards are set out which emphasise state responsibility to protect women and girls, tackling violence against women in ‘all its forms’ during peace time and times of armed conflict.

The UK Government have been stalling ratification of the convention, since signing it back in 2012. Without ratification the once, sign of commitment to ending violence against women and girls, is nothing more than rhetoric and a piece of paper.

What can I do?

It is still so important to keep up the pressure with MP’s, especially as the third reading falls in the middle of Brexit talks. Once again we need at least 100 MPs to show up to ensure the Bill progresses into the Lords. I have contacted my MP, who attended and supported the Bill at the second reading, to request she continues her support for the Bill by turning up and voting at the third reading on February 24th 2017.

Contacting your MP is easy, I like to send personal emails/letters initially before following up on social media, especially to acknowledge whether they are supporting or not. This also helps IC CHANGE monitor the numbers of MP’s who may turn up at the third reading. Please take a few minutes to contact your MP in whichever mode is accessible to you – phone, email, letter, social media and/or constituency surgery.

To find out how to contact your MP visit the IC CHANGE website, which has heaps of great resources and information on how to get involved.

Voting in support of this Bill gets us one step closer to the UK having progressive legislation on ending violence against women and girls, which can help #changeherstory by securing vital protection from violence for women and girls across the UK!

Louise Jenkins is a Women’s and Girls’ Rights Independent Consultant with 10 years experience designing and delivering bespoke and innovative training and advocacy projects. Louise specialises in consultations on ending violence against women and girls (VAWG) and achieving gender equality. With excellent communication, research and negotiation skills, Louise has a proven track record of building robust relationships with a wide range of donors, partners and stakeholders both nationally (in the UK) and internationally.

If you would like to access Louise’s support at a reduced rate especially for small NGOs, please do get in touch with Paula at paula@fairdevelopment.co.uk.