‘No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.’ – Michelle Obama
Why in news?
- Reently Poland has decided to withdraw from Istanbul Convention, a treaty aimed at preventing violence against women, while Turkey has witnessed a mass protests as government is thinking to follow same.
- The Polish government says that the treaty is disrespectful towards religion and requires teaching liberal social policies in schools.
- The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and its coalition partners are closely aligned to the Catholic Church, and the government has promised to promote traditional family values
- The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, is a human rights treaty of the Council of Europe against violence against women and domestic violence.
- The convention aims at prevention of violence, victim protection and “to end with the impunity of perpetrators”.
What is Istanbul Convention ?
- It is the first-ever legally binding set of guidelines that creates “a comprehensive legal framework and approach to combat violence against women” and is focused on preventing domestic violence, protecting victims, and prosecuting accused offenders.
- It also states that violence against women is a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination.
- The Convention does outline which acts must be criminalised by the participating countries.
- Such offences include psychological violence, stalking, physical violence, sexual violence (including rape), all non-consensual acts of a sexual nature with a person, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced abortion, and forced sterilisation, honour crimes as well as sexual harassment.
- An independent group of experts titled GREVIO (i.e. Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence) was tasked with monitoring the implementation of the convention.
Criticism and why some countries are resistant to join the Convention
- Some countries considered this definition as too broad and feared it could be interpreted to make way for the allowance of a third gender. However, according to the Convention gender and sex are two separate concepts and the definition does not intend to replace the terms for "women" and "men".
- There is no explicit mention of the terms "intersex" and "transgender" within the Istanbul Convention. The parties are, however, required to avoid any discrimination based on someone’s gender or sexual identity, as well as their race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, age, state of health, disability, marital status, migrant or refugee status.
- Another aspect some countries are hesitant to oblige by is that the Istanbul Convention requires parties to include teaching material on non-stereotyped gender roles. This is on occasion regarded as an attempt to enforce a liberal, western lifestyle in more traditional and conservative societies - as they perceive themselves
Evolution of Istanbul Convention
- The original name of the Istanbul Convention is the “Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence”. It is mostly referred to as the Istanbul Convention, where it was first opened for signatures on 11 May 2011.
- The Council of Europe had already started several initiatives to promote the protection of women against violence since the 1990s. Over the years and across the span of several campaigns it became increasingly clear that there was a need for a set of legal standards to ensure that victims anywhere could benefit from the same level of protection.
- In 2008, the Committee of Ministers of Justice of the Council of Europe set up an expert group mandated to draft up a convention that would set the standards to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence.
- The final draft was ready two years later, in 2010. But before it was finished several countries had tried to soften the language and take out certain paragraphs, much to the dismay of human right organisations, such as Amnesty International.
- On 11 May 2011, the convention was opened for signatures in Istanbul, Turkey. As of today, 12 countries have signed the convention without ratifying it, and 34 countries who have signed, ratified the convention and enforced it. It came into force on 1. August 2014
Some Women Empowerment and safety schemes and their objectives in INDIA
1. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme 2015
- To prevent gender-biased sex selective elimination
- To ensure survival & protection of the girl child
- To ensure education and participation of the girl child
2. One-Stop Centre Scheme 2015
- To provide support and assistance to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces.
- To Facilitate/Assist in filing First Information Report (FIR/NCR)
- To provide psycho-social support and counselling to women/girl
3. Women Helpline Scheme 2016
- To provide toll-free 24-hours telecom service to women affected by violence.
- To facilitate crisis and non-crisis intervention through referral to the appropriate agencies such as police/Hospitals/Ambulance services/District Legal Service Authority (DLSA)/Protection Officer (PO)/OSC.
- To provide information about the appropriate support services, government schemes and programmes available to the woman affected by violence, in her particular situation within the local area in which she resides or is employed.
4. UJJAWALA 2016
- To prevent the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation.
- To facilitate the rescue of victims from the place of their exploitation and place them in safe custody.
- To provide rehabilitation services with both immediate and long-term to the victims by providing basic amenities/needs such as shelter, food, clothing, medical treatment including counselling, legal aid and guidance and vocational training.
5. SWADHAR Greh 2018
- To cater to the primary need for shelter, food, clothing, medical treatment and care of women in distress.
- To provide women with legal aid and guidance.
6. Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP) 1986-87
- To provide skills that give employability to women.
- To benefit women in the age group of 16 and above in the country.
7. Mahila Shakti Kendras (MSK) 2017
- To create an environment for women where they have access to healthcare, quality, education, guidance, employment, etc.
- To facilitate these opportunities at the block and district level in the country.
8. NIRBHAYA 2012
- To facilitate safety and security for women at various levels.
- To ensure strict privacy and confidentiality of women’s identity and information.
- Provision for real-time intervention as far as possible.
9. Mahila E-Haat 2016
- To facilitate entrepreneurship opportunities online for women.
- To educate women on various aspects of online selling and helping them establish their own venture.
Despite these and many other schemes and stringent laws condition of women safety in India is among lowest around the world.
- he Council of Europe stated that home violence was being inflicted on women just because they were women and so, the countries should take steps and do their part in combating this practice. One of the points in the Istanbul Convention was questioned by the PiS that neither culture, custom, religion, tradition or so-called “honour” can justify violence. The government interprets it as making links between religion and violence
- The World Health Organization says domestic violence has surged this year in Europe during months of lockdown aimed at fighting the corona-virus.
- Thus the ruling government should encourage ‘women empowerment’ rather than taking such vigorous steps to curb their freedom of every kind. The current practice being followed is not just a threat to the country but to the entire world. Government should open the minds of the citizens to the doors of ‘gender equality’ rather than applying a conservative approach in running the country.
World Heritage sites in India
- There are 38 World Heritage Sites located in India. These include 30 cultural sites, seven natural sites and one mixed-criteria site.
- India has the sixth largest number of sites in the world.