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Council of Europe Convention on domestic violence held constitutional in Poland

“The Istanbul Convention conforms to the Polish Constitution and its ratification is reasonable for the purposes of the effective prevention and combating violence against woman and domestic violence”, reads an opinion of the HFHR on the admissibility of the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

The Sejm is currently debating on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. It was prepared within the framework of the Council of Europe and seeks to impose a number of obligations on states, developed in order to tackle violence against women and domestic violence. In the course of parliamentary works, arguments have been raised that the Convention was unconstitutional and posed a threat to the Polish tradition and family.

“The Istanbul Convention does not only fully conform to the Polish Constitution, but also implements it in a very detailed manner”, says Barbara Grabowska-Moroz, HFHR’s lawyer. “Obligation to provide protection from violence against women and domestic violence is a special task of the public authorities originating from their constitutional duty to safeguard human rights”, Ms Grabowska-Moroz adds.

The Convention establishes a number of obligations on its parties, including the promotion of “changes in the social and cultural patterns of behaviour of women and men”. The opinion noted that it was domestic authorities who would decide which stereotypes are to be deemed negative and which changes – social and cultural – in behavioural patterns of women and men are to be promoted.

“Therefore, the Convention does not specify the content of social norms which determine the roles or behaviour of women and men, leaving the state-parties a significant area of discretion in this respect”, Barbara Grabowska-Moroz observes. “The Convention prohibits promotion of such roles, behaviours, actions or attributes which consolidate the idea of the inferiority of women. Indeed, one of the Convention obligations is that to eliminate the social norms that legitimise violence against women, including domestic violence”, Ms Grabowska-Moroz adds.

The opinion also points to the fact that the Convention implementation monitoring mechanism, the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO), is not a threat to the sovereignty of Poland. There are many bodies operating under international law which control states’ performance of international obligations, safeguarding the protection of human rights.

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