The Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention is a unique, internationally binding regulatory framework to combat violence against women and domestic violence.

It establishes that domestic violence is a structural problem and an expression of a historically unequal power balance between women and men.

Ambitious work is under way to review what the 27 States that have ratified the Convention are doing to actively bring about improvements. Sweden has a major interest in ensuring that this work becomes a leading example at global level.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention) is the first legally binding international agreement on violence against women. All forms of violence that disproportionately affect women are included and the Convention establishes that violence against women is a human rights violation.

EU accession

All countries, even those outside the Council of Europe, can accede to the Convention. It is also explicitly open for signature by the EU. EU accession is one of the Swedish Government’s priorities for driving progress towards gender equality in the EU. The EU signed the Convention in June 2017, thereby sending a strong signal on the EU’s engagement in the fight to stop violence against women. In the negotiations leading up to the signing ceremony, Sweden pushed to include not only parts of the Convention in which the EU has competence. In the current negotiations ahead of ratification, Sweden is also pushing for a broad approach.

Advocacy

Under the 2015-2018 action plan for feminist foreign policy, the Foreign Service is to work to ensure that all states accede to and implement the Istanbul Convention. This is being done in various ways. The issue is being raised in bilateral contacts with various countries, and in an opinion piece in the Ukrainian newspaper Pravda, Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström and the Lithuanian Minister for Foreign Affairs also encouraged that country to ratify the Convention.

By ensuring that the Istanbul Convention is included in action plans that govern the Council of Europe’s operations in various member States, Sweden is working in a tangible way to ensure that the Council of Europe contributes support in this area. The Council of Europe can offer, for example, legal experts to ensure that legislation is compatible with the provisions of the Convention and support to initiatives to raise awareness about the Convention.

Naturally, financial contributions are another way to work to increase implementation and Sweden has supported the Council of Europe’s efforts on the Istanbul Convention in Ukraine.

Swedish implementation

To ensure effective implementation, the Convention also has an independent monitoring body, GREVIO (Group of experts on action against violence against women and domestic violence). Sweden recently submitted its first report on the implementation of the Convention and GREVIO is planning to visit Sweden in early 2018. The most recent report was about Denmark.

We are therefore working actively in different ways, in Sweden, bilaterally and multilaterally, towards greater accession to and implementation of the Istanbul Convention.