Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence

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Istanbul convention
Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence
Signed 11 May 2011
Location Istanbul
Effective 1 August 2014
Condition 10 ratifications of which 8 from Council of Europe members
Signatories 46 + EU
Ratifiers 32
Depositary Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Languages English and French

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) is a Council of Europe convention against violence against women and domestic violence which was opened for signature on 11 May 2011, in Istanbul, Turkey. The convention aims at prevention of violence, victim protection and "to end with the impunity of perpetrators",[1] as of January 2018, it has been signed by 46 countries and the European Union.[1] On 12 March 2012, Turkey became the first country to ratify the Convention, followed by 31 other countries from 2013 to 2018 (Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece,[2] Iceland, Italy, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Portugal, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland).[1] The Convention came into force on 1 August 2014.[1]


The Council of Europe has undertaken a series of initiatives to promote the protection of women against violence since the 1990s; in particular, these initiatives have resulted in the adoption, in 2002, of the Council of Europe Recommendation Rec(2002)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the protection of women against violence,[3] and the running of a Europe-wide campaign, from 2006-2008, to combat violence against women, including domestic violence.[4] The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has also taken a firm political stance against all forms of violence against women. It has adopted a number of resolutions and recommendations calling for legally-binding standards on preventing, protecting against and prosecuting the most severe and widespread forms of gender-based violence.

National reports, studies and surveys revealed the magnitude of the problem in Europe.[citation needed] The campaign in particular showed a large variation in Europe of national responses to violence against women and domestic violence, thus the need for harmonised legal standards to ensure that victims benefit from the same level of protection everywhere in Europe became apparent. The Ministers of Justice of Council of Europe member states began discussing the need to step up protection from domestic violence, in particular intimate partner violence.

The Council of Europe decided it was necessary to set comprehensive standards to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence; in December 2008, the Committee of Ministers set up an expert group mandated to prepare a draft convention in this field. Over the course of just over two years, this group, called the CAHVIO (Ad Hoc Committee for preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence),[5] worked out a draft text, during the later stage of drafting of the convention, UK, Italy, Russia and the Holy See proposed several amendments to limit the requirements provided by the Convention. These amendments were criticized by Amnesty International,[6] the final draft of the convention was produced in December 2010.

Adoption, signature and ratification[edit]

The convention was adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers on 7 April 2011, it opened for signature on 11 May 2011 on the occasion of the 121st Session of the Committee of Ministers in Istanbul. It entered into force following 10 ratifications, eight of which were required to be member states of the Council of Europe, as of December 2015, the convention was signed by 39 states, followed by ratification of the minimum eight Council of Europe states: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, and Turkey. Later that year it was ratified by Andorra, Denmark, France, Malta, Monaco, Spain, and Sweden; in 2015 it was ratified also by Slovenia, Finland, Poland and the Netherlands, and in 2016 by San Marino, Belgium and Romania; in 2017 by Georgia, Norway, Germany, Estonia, Cyprus and Switzerland, and in 2018 by Croatia, Macedonia, Iceland and Greece.[2] States that have ratified the Convention are legally bound by its provisions once it enters into force.

Main provisions[edit]

The Istanbul Convention is the first legally-binding instrument which "creates a comprehensive legal framework and approach to combat violence against women" and is focussed on preventing domestic violence, protecting victims and prosecuting accused offenders.[7]

It characterizes violence against women as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination (Art.3(a)). Countries should exercise due diligence when preventing violence, protecting victims and prosecuting perpetrators (Art. 5). The Convention also contains a definition of gender: for the purpose of the Convention gender is defined in Article 3(c) as "the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men". Moreover, the treaty establishes a series of offences characterized as violence against women. States which ratify the Convention must criminalize several offences, including: psychological violence (Art.33); stalking (Art.34); physical violence (Art.35); sexual violence, including rape, explicitly covering all engagement in non-consensual acts of a sexual nature with a person (Art.36), forced marriage (Art.37); female genital mutilation (Art.38), forced abortion and forced sterilisation (Art.39). The Convention states that sexual harassment must be subject to "criminal or other legal sanction" (Art. 40). The Convention also includes an article targeting crimes committed in the name of so-called "honour" (Art. 42).[1]


The convention contains 81 articles separated into 12 chapters, its structure follows the structure of the Council of Europe’s most recent conventions.[citation needed] The structure of the instrument is based on the “four Ps”: Prevention, Protection and support of victims, Prosecution of offenders and Integrated Policies, each area foresees a series of specific measures.[8] The Convention also establishes obligations in relation to the collection of data and supporting research in the field of violence against women (Art. 11).

At the Preamble, European Convention on Human Rights, European Social Charter and Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings as well as international human rights treaties by United Nations and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court are recalled. In Article 2, this Convention indicates that the provisions shall apply in time of peace and also in situations of armed conflicts in violence against women and domestic violence. Article 3 provides defines key terms:

  • "violence against women" is "violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender-based violation that result in, or are likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological, or economic harm or suffering to women including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life",
  • "domestic violence": "all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence that occur with the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim."
  • "gender": means "the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men."
  • "gender-based violence against women": means "violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately."

Article 4 prohibits several types of discrimination stating: The implementation of the provisions of this Convention by the Parties, in particular measure to protect the rights of victims, shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, gender, race, colour, language political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, state of health, disability, marital status, migrant or refugee status, or other status.

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