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Istanbul Convention: Approaching UK Ratification

I have today sent the letter below to my local MP (copied to Philip Davies). You may wish to do the same (use your own words).

Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill 2016-17

Tomorrow (Friday 16th December 2016) the above Private Members’ Bill comes before the House of Commons for its second reading. The Bill is to be presented by Dr Eilidh Whiteford, SNP Spokesperson for Social Justice, Work and Pensions.

The purpose of the Bill is to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence – known as The Istanbul Convention.

I urge you to vote against the Bill going forward.

The reason is that the Bill is profoundly antithetical to equality, despite being presented in the guise of equality.

The basis of this view is laid out in the attached Appendix.

Appendix: Basis of the view that The Istanbul Convention is Antithetical to Equality

The Istanbul Convention calls for the protection of women and girls ONLY

The Convention is concerned solely with the protection and standing of women and girls.

The natural chivalry of men, and their desire to protect women, has led to a perception of domestic violence (DV) in which men appear only as perpetrators of violence and only women are its victims. This is factually incorrect (see below).

It is important to realise that this seriously false perception persists because, as a society, we have failed to embrace equality.

Unfortunately, the Istanbul Convention is a further reinforcement of this inequitable predisposition to which we are prone as a hangover from our historically gendered society. This is explicit within the Convention itself, which openly espouses a “gendered approach” (see below).

In other words, the Istanbul Convention is the opposite of what it purports to be: it proposes a deepening of inequality in the guise of advocating for equality.

The Reality of Domestic Violence

The Crime Surveys for England & Wales have consistently indicated for many years that one in three victims of partner abuse are men. This is broadly consistent with survey data from other Anglophone countries.

No issue in the social sciences has been so well studied as domestic violence. The research literature is immense. To name just a couple: (i) Martin Fiebert has complied data from 286 studies comprising over 370,000 case histories, (ii) The Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Project was conducted by 42 scholars at 20 universities and research centres and is extremely comprehensive. These authoritative sources conclude that “women perpetrate physical and emotional abuse, as well as engage in controlling behaviours, at comparable rates to men“. A broadly consistent picture emerges from the most recent UK research, e.g., from the University of Cumbria, the University of Central Lancashire and Teeside University.

23% of reports of domestic violence to the police in the UK in 2015 were from victimised men, despite the reluctance of men to report domestic violence.

The number of convictions of women for domestic violence was 5,641 in 2015/16, and this number is rising steeply.

Adults and Children

Traditionalists who are unable to make the cognitive leap required to acknowledge that adult men might need protection should note an even more pernicious aspect of the Convention: the gendered approach is to be applied also to children. Thus, whilst the protection of women and girls is promoted, boys feature only alongside men as potential perpetrators. Article 12(4) states,

Parties shall take the necessary measures to encourage all members of society, especially men and boys, to contribute actively to preventing all forms of violence covered by the scope of this Convention” (i.e., against females)

Boys are not otherwise mentioned in the Convention. This actively promotes the view that, whilst boys, of however tender an age, are to be regarded as potential abusers, they are not considered as needing protection. This observation alone is sufficient to reject calls for the ratification of this Convention.

Discrimination is not discrimination

Article 4(4) states,

Special measures that are necessary to prevent and protect women from gender-based violence shall not be considered discrimination under the terms of this Convention.”

This would be an extremely unfortunate legal precept. It would give carte blanche for the pre-emptive arrests of men just in case they might have been thinking of doing something. The “special measures” are not defined. So, it could mean anything that someone, somewhere deems “necessary”…..to prevent something they’ve just made up. This would sanction a serious infringement of individual liberties and illustrates the danger that ratifying this Convention could have extremely serious unintended consequences.

Not just about violence

To amplify the risk of unintended consequences of ratification, the Convention attempts to smuggle-in far broader issues than just violence against women. For example, Article 1(1b) states,

Contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and promote substantive equality between women and men, including by empowering women.”

Under the aegis of protection, the Convention would smuggle in the whole gamut of “substantive equality” – which is code for affirmative action (or preferential treatment).

Similarly, Article 12(6) states,

Parties shall take the necessary measures to promote programmes and activities for the empowerment of women.”

which is essentially the same point in different words, and is not ostensibly related to protection from violence.

Enforcement

Article 1(2) states,

In order to ensure effective implementation of its provisions by the Parties, this Convention establishes a specific monitoring mechanism.”

whilst article 66(1) states,

The Group of experts on action against violence against women and domestic violence (hereinafter referred to as “GREVIO”) shall monitor the implementation of this Convention by the Parties.”

This is particularly chilling. Here “experts” can be taken to mean people with suitable ideological purity, adhering to the ‘gendered approach’. Ratification will expose the UK to ‘monitoring’ by this Council of Europe body. They are modern-day witch-finder generals tasked with enforcement. They will work with local groups sympathetic to the ‘gendered approach’ to ensure that “progress” against the Convention’s objectives are being made. Ratification of the Convention will provide them with a mechanism for putting the squeeze on the UK if “progress” is not to their liking.

Give us the money

Article 8 states,

Parties shall allocate appropriate financial and human resources for the adequate implementation of integrated policies, measures and programmes to prevent and combat all forms of violence covered by the scope of this Convention, including those carried out by non-governmental organisations and civil society.”

To what level of funding would ratification of the Convention commit us? Does anyone know?

Finally…

I close with a quote from Dr Jessica McCarrick, DV researcher at Teeside University,

Forty years of feminist campaigning and the influence of gender stereotypes have had a major impact on how society views intimate partner violence (IPV). The argument in this article is that both genders can be affected by partner violence, but currently there exist a number of biases in addressing this. Campaigners and researchers made waves in the 1970s, which had a positive impact and improved service provision for women. I argue that it is time to do the same for men. More media coverage addressing the IPV experiences of both men and women is needed in order to educate people about this issue. Promoting awareness of the plight of male survivors may encourage men to report abuse and feel assured that they will be taken seriously.”

I wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately ratifying the Istanbul Convention would be a further step in the wrong direction.