Progressive sections in Poland have denounced the conservative government’s bid to quit the European treaty on violence against women and domestic violence, popularly known as the Istanbul Convention. On January 27, Polish left coalition Lewica, in a statement, registered its strong protest against the government’s plan. The National Women’s Strike in Poland also initiated an extensive country-wide campaign to oppose the decision to leave the convention.
Earlier this week, justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro announced that Poland is moving towards formally initiating the process to quit the treaty. The Istanbul Convention is a Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which came into force on August 1, 2014. It has been signed by 45 countries and ratified by 34, so far. The government led by the right-wing Law & Justice (PiS) party has claimed that the “Istanbul Convention does not respect religion and promotes controversial ideologies about gender.”
On Monday, Lewica stated, “Anti-violence Convention prohibits: physical, mental, economic and sexual abuse, rape, forced marriage, abortion, and sterilization, and female genital mutilation. If the denunciation act [to leave the convention] goes to parliament, the Left will fight for rejection at every turn. We appeal to the president of the Republic of Poland and to all parliamentary groups for a pact to adhere to the convention.”
Lewica has demanded that instead of withdrawing from the convention, the government must instead modify the country’s laws, as well as the prevention and intervention systems to address sexual and economic aspects of violence. Additionally, the law should be made applicable to cover prevention of violence in relationships of non-married persons who are not living together. Lewica further demands that the existing definition of rape crime should be amended in accordance with the convention’s standard. Finally, the government must restart anti-discrimination education in schools and collect statistical data on violence against women.
The youth wing of the Razem (Together), one of the constituents of Lewica, also condemned PiS’ bid to take out Poland from the convention.
The move by PiS is being seen as an attempt to consolidate the right-wing base in the country by appeasing conservative sections of the Catholic Church and its adherents and portraying the party as a champion of traditional moral values. It has been running a concerted homophobic campaign against the LGBTQ community in Poland and has even initiated prosecution against activists and leaders of the Communist Party of Poland (KPP). This has helped it in winning the support of the anti-communist, anti-Russia, hyper-nationalist and neo-Nazi groups in the country.