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The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, has triggered Law and Justice since its ratification in 2015. The party’s MPs even went so far as to argue that adopting the treaty equals “blindly denouncing the Polish tradition and culture”. However, back then, Law and Justice was in the opposition and Bronisław Komorowski was the head of state.

But when in 2016 Law and Justice already had a majority government, Poland’s withdrawal from the Convention came back on the agenda. Many politicians representing the ruling camp, including the Government Plenipotentiary for Civil Society and Equal Treatment Adam Lipuński or the Minister of Family, Labour and Social Policy Elżbieta Rafalska, spoke in favour of the withdrawal. President Andrzej Duda, in turn, proposed to simply “not apply” the premises of the treaty.

The topic has faded, but it didn’t disappear. When at the end of last year the Senate was busy reviewing a petition prepared by catholic interest groups calling on the government to reject the Convention, representatives of the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy assured that the right time to act will come while preparing a report about the status of implementation of the Convention’s objectives.

It looks like the time has finally come. On Thursday, during an interview for the Catholic television channel TV Trwam, the current Minister of Family, Labour and Social Policy Marlena Maląg announced that the efforts to withdraw from the convention are in progress. However, while talking to the Polish Press Agency two days later, she emphasized that the decision has not been made yet, and the issue is currently being reviewed. At the same time, she added: -  All attempts to impose ideological content that is foreign to the Polish constitution and the rules and norms accepted in our country are simply inacceptable.

A pledge to uphold the status quo

Women’s rights organizations were quick to respond. “The Istanbul Convention is the first international treaty to legally define gender-based violence. It is binding the signatory countries to implement effective measures to prevent violence against women, to prosecute and punish the perpetrators, and to build and provide support mechanisms for the victims. We do not consent to a withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention!” – wrote the Center for Women’s Rights. The organization estimates that every year an approximate number of 800.000 women suffer some form of domestic violence.

In an attempt to uphold the treaty, the Left has worked out a pledge. Among its key points we can find the following: - a guarantee to prevent, persecute, and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence; - the provision of special mechanisms to monitor different forms of domestic violence; - acknowledging the structural character of violence against women as gender-based violence; - an adamant opposition to and punishment of human rights violations of any kind.

The Left has also announced that it will turn to other political parties and actors for support and ask them to sign the pledge. First of all- the president.

- We would like president Andrzej Duda to be the first person to sign the pledge. After all, during his campaign, the president doubled down on his commitment to stand side by side with the victims and to never reject a law which guarantees them protection. The Istanbul Convention is precisely such a legal document– said the leader of the Left’s parliamentary club Krzysztof Gawkowski, speaking on Sunday in front of the Presidential Palace.

No to the Istanbul Convention, yes to an International Convention on the Rights of the Family?

On the same day when Minister Maląg appeared on TV Trwam, Marek Jurek’s Christian Social Congress and the ultra-conservative institute Ordo Iuris announced they are starting to collect signatures toward a legislative project named “Yes to family, no to gender”. The bill calls for an “immediate” rejection of the Istanbul Convention, but also advocates the adoption of an International Convention on Family Rights instead.

To grab the government’s attention and familiarize it with the idea, Marek Jurek and the representatives of Ordo Iuris met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz and the former Minister of Family, Labour and Social Policy Elżbieta Rafalska.

The presented draft raised issues similar to those addressed in the Istanbul Convention: the prevention of secondary-victimization or providing a victim support line and safe spaces. However, many of the provisions also mention sexual education, minority rights, abortion or birth control.

The document emphasized that “parents have the right to decide on the participation of their children in the classes affecting their morals” and that “public authorities shall not, in any way, affect the reproduction of fertility or make it difficult for families to have children”.

The signatory countries would „denounce the legal status of same-sex, polygamous, and incestuous partnerships or marriages including those already recognized both at home or abroad”.


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