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President signed Istanbul Convention

Last weekend, President of Poland Bronisław Komorowski signed into law the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women. “I think that the Convention should not be a victim of the election schedule. The Convention should be dealt with in the way that serves best the interest of the State, and the President’s actions in this respect should not be guided by any political calculations”, informed President Komorowski.

The Istanbul Convention, developed within the framework of the Council of Europe, imposes a number of obligations on states, which were designed to tackle violence against women and domestic violence.

The ratification process took more than two years and raised major controversy as opponents to the Convention argued that the instrument would harm the traditionally defined family. In the course of parliamentary works, the Convention was called “unconstitutional”. The Convention’s most controversial provision is that referring to the promotion of “changes in the social and cultural patterns of behaviour of women and men”.

During the parliamentary debate, the HFHR presented an opinion statement which opposed the allegations of the Convention’s unconstitutionality. In its statement, the Foundation noted that it was domestic authorities who would decide which stereotypes are to be deemed negative and which social and cultural changes in behavioural patterns of women and men are to be promoted.

“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”, says Barbara Grabowska-Moroz, a lawyer working with the Helsinki Foundation. “The Convention prohibits the promotion of the roles, behaviours, actions or attributes that consolidate the idea of the inferiority of women. One of the Convention obligations is to take action to eliminate the social norms that legitimise violence against women, including domestic violence”, Ms Grabowska-Moroz.

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