In News: The Ukrainian Parliament — the Verkhovna Rada — passed a Bill on June 20 ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
- It is a huge step forward for the protection of women and girls from all forms of violence, whether in Ukraine or abroad, and could not be more timely for a number of reasons.
- The Istanbul Convention: The most far-reaching international treaty designed to set legally binding standards for governments in Europe for the prevention, protection, and prosecution of gender-based violence.
Gender-based violence in Ukraine
- The risk of women becoming victims of gender-based violence in Ukraine has increased immensely over the course of Russia’s eight-year war.
- Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in late February 2022: Suggests that the Russian troops have been using rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war and instrument of terror to control civilians.
- Although, the Russian authorities have denied alleged sexual abuse by their troops, the truth is that women in Ukraine have been disproportionately affected by the war. And as the tensions continue to rise, the risk of gender-based violence will also be heightened, with survivors suffering more severe levels of abuse.
- The prompt implementation of the convention could thus equip the Ukrainian authorities to deal with these atrocities and serve to reassure the survivors and provide them with the confidence to seek justice.
- Women’s rights activists in Ukraine have long been calling for changes.
- Domestic violence has been an administrative offence in Ukraine since 2003, which is punishable by a fine, community work of up to 60 hours or by imprisonment of up to 15 days. Then in 2019, systematic domestic violence was criminalised, which in practice meant that criminal charges will only be imposed if the abuser commits three offences in a year’.
- However, these pieces of legislation and forms of punishment often fell short of what the victims anticipated as being fair prosecution, discouraging them and others to go through the process of seeking justice.
- The convention’s ratification will not only expand ‘the list of abuse against women punishable by law in Ukraine — including but not limited to psychological abuse, stalking, forced marriage, physical and sexual abuse, forced abortion, sterilisation’ — but also provide the authorities with the opportunity to bring about changes in its legislation and institutional procedures.
- It will also mean that Ukraine will be responsible for financing more shelters for women, training social workers to adequately handle cases of sexual violence, and increase resources of assistance available for victims.
- Aiding EU integration
- Help in Ukraine’s European integration: Guaranteeing human rights is the most important aspect that is considered when European Union (EU) membership is being extended to a country. It has thus been crucial for Ukraine to demonstrate actions that will bring the country closer to European legislations and values.
- The decision is of particular significance for the Netherlands and Sweden, two ‘sceptical’ countries that were initially blocking Ukraine’s candidate seat but have now eventually agreed to back EU member status for Ukraine.
The Challenge: Proper implementation of the convention will require financial resources, which seems like a challenging goal for a country already facing economic downfall due to the Russian invasion.
- The ratification, is thus, a big milestone for Ukraine and has been applauded by many institutions, including the United Nations Human Rights Council and the EU Commission on human rights in the hope that it will decrease both the number of gender-based violence and domestic violence cases.
- It will also bring Ukraine closer to other countries that have already ratified the convention.
Source: The Hindu