Women Protest as Poland Mulls Quitting Anti-Violence Treaty

Tens of thousands of Polish women took to the streets to protest government plans to pull out from an international treaty on preventing and combating domestic violence.

Deputy Justice Minister Marcin Romanowski said this week that Poland should drop out of the Istanbul Convention as soon as possible, calling the pact signed by most European nations “gender gibberish.”

In past years, demonstrations led by women have halted the ruling Law & Justice party’s attempts to tighten the country’s nearly complete ban on abortions. The organizers said protests are planned in 30 Polish cities on Friday and will be attended by about 20,000 people.

Women Protest as Poland Mulls Quitting Anti-Violence Treaty

“We need to unite and show how many of us there are,” protest coordinator Aleksandra Margot told Bloomberg. “If their patriarchal family model is so good, why are they afraid? But yet they are and by pulling out of the Convention, they’re effectively caving in to violence.”

Religion, Honor

Romanowski said that while the treaty “concerns very important matters, such as preventing and combating domestic violence,” it’s actually an attempt by “neo-Marxists and supporters of gender ideology” to force their beliefs on Poles.

“The Istanbul Convention speaks of religion as the cause of violence against women,” he told Catholic broadcaster Radio Maryja this week. “We want to denounce this gender gibberish.”

Last year, Poland shelved plans to redefine the definition of domestic violence so that it only applies to spouses who are beaten more than once. Published on a government website, a draft bill provoked a wave of criticism amid fears it would legalize “one-off” incidents of beating.

Dividing Rod

The treaty, drafted by the Council of Europe rights group, obliges nations to ensure that “culture, custom, religion, tradition or so-called ‘honor’ shall not be regarded as justification” for acts of violence. In Poland, it entered into force in 2015, under the previous government.

Women Protest as Poland Mulls Quitting Anti-Violence Treaty

The Convention has not been signed by Russia, while the U.K., Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Bulgaria, Armenia and Moldova have yet to ratify it. The pact has become a dividing rod in national politics across eastern Europe, with pro-European forces generally in favor and more nationalist leaders against it.

“The Hungarian government wants to abolish violence, the Istanbul Convention wants to abolish families,” Deputy Premier Zsolt Semjen said in May, according to Index.hu.

Meanwhile in Ukraine, which is fighting a war against Russian-backed insurgents and seeking closer European Union relations, the government is stepping up work to ratify the treaty.

“We need to demonstrate by real-life examples in Ukraine that such legislation works effectively,“ said Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s Deputy Premier for European Integration. Reported incidents of domestic violence spiked this year, she said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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