Lawmakers pave way for EU to ratify treaty protecting women

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is getting closer to ratifying a landmark European treaty protecting women from violence.

Lawmakers gathered in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday approved by a large majority the EU’s endorsement of the Istanbul Convention.

The human rights treaty of the Council of Europe states that men and women have equal rights, and obliges state authorities to take steps to prevent gender-based violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.

The EU signed the treaty six years ago but it has yet to be ratified by the bloc as a whole because of the opposition of six member countries — Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia.

“I want to send my strongest call to those six remaining member states in the EU, to also individually ratify the Istanbul Convention,” said Arba Kokalari, a Swedish EU lawmaker from the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. “It’s time for you to stand on the right side of history and to support women’s right to a life free from violence.”

Asked for an opinion by the EU Parliament, the EU Court of Justice said in 2021 that the Council — which represents EU member countries’ governments — could ratify the Istanbul Convention without unanimity.

According to the EU, one in three women in the EU — some 62 million women — has experienced physical or sexual violence, and more than half of women (55%) in the region have been sexually harassed at least once since the age of 15.

Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention in 2021, prompting condemnation from women’s rights groups and Western countries. The landmark convention was signed in Istanbul in 2011.

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