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The Istanbul Convention: signed now ratify

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IC Change, 30 women's organisations, letter, Boris Johnson, ratify the Istanbul Convention, tackle violence against women and girlsWe would like a commitment to ratification within the year and a clear timetable for this process.

On 8 June eight years ago the UK signed the Istanbul Convention – the gold standard approach to tackling violence against women at a national level.

Violence against women and girls is widespread in the UK and takes many forms. At the moment, there is no legislation to hold the government to account for failing to take the action necessary to address this issue.

That is what the Istanbul Convention would provide.

The Istanbul Convention (IC) is a strong and comprehensive legal framework that exists to tackle violence against women and girls, and a life-saving piece of legislation for protecting women and girls against all forms of violence; it sets out minimum standards for how the government should prevent violence, protect women and girls experiencing it, and prosecute those responsible.

The UK government has signed but not yet ratified the Istanbul Convention – and until it does, the Convention is not legally binding. This is stopping important steps being taken to tackle violence against women.

IC Change and 30 other women’s organisations have signed this letter to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, calling for the government to ratify the #IstanbulConvention within the year:

Dear Prime Minister,

We are urging the Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence; and we urge you to ensure that this happens within the year.

On 8 June 2020, it will be eight years since the UK signed the Istanbul Convention. Much progress has been made in that time, especially to guarantee that the UK is more compliant with the Convention. We thank you for your role in securing key reforms, including the current Domestic Abuse Bill. However, eight years on, we remain anxious to see ratification at last.

The 2019 Report on Progress towards ratifying the Istanbul Convention, alongside additional ministerial statements, indicate that the final hurdles to ratification should be cleared when the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill in Northern Ireland, and the Domestic Abuse Bill in Westminster are passed. These would extend extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) over certain crimes, including rape and so-called ‘honour’ based killings, and bring legislation in Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK. We welcome these crucial developments but urge you to ensure that the Domestic Abuse Bill delivers protection for all women, regardless of their migrant, refugee or immigration status, as per Article 4(3) of the Convention. We are particularly concerned about the lack of access to financial and housing support for migrant survivors who do not have secure immigration status.

Assuming the success of these Bills, we would like to ask you to publish the timetable for ratification as required in the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Act 2017, and to commit to ratifying the Convention within the year.

While we appreciate the additional pressures that the COVID-19 pandemic puts on legislation, we are particularly concerned by the impact of lockdown measures on women and children experiencing domestic abuse and survivors of sexual violence and abuse at this time. The comprehensive protections for survivors offered by the Convention are more important than ever. This Government can be the one to ratify this essential and comprehensive roadmap to ending violence against women – and it can do so this year.

We look forward to a reply that provides both a commitment to ratification within the year and a clear timetable for this process.

If we can be of any help, or should you like to discuss this further, we would be happy to meet with you.

Yours faithfully,

R. Boosey, K. Dingle and N. Wharton, Co-directors – IC Change; Ann-Marie Wilson, Executive Director – 28 Too Many; Anthea Sully, Chief Executive Officer – White Ribbon UK; Baljit Banga, Director – Imkaan; Bev Jullien, Chief Executive Officer – Mothers’ Union; Claire Barnett, Executive Director – UN Women UK; Caroline Pinder, Chair, Board of Trustees – Oxford Against Cutting; Dr C Quinn, Chief Executive Officer – Rape Crisis England & Wales; Diana Nammi, Executive Director – IKWRO; Eleanor Lisney, Co-ordinator – Sisters of Frida; Emma Ritch, Executive Director – Engender; Estelle du Boulay, Director – Rights of Women; Faeeza Vaid MBE, Executive Director and Nazmin Akthar, Co-Chair – Muslim Women’s Network UK; Fiona Dwyer, Chief Executive Officer – Solace Women’s Aid; Harriet Wistrich, Director – Centre for Women’s Justice; Human Rights Watch; Jackie Jones, Former Member – European Parliament; Jo Todd, Chief Executive Officer – RESPECT; Juliet Colman, Director – SecurityWomen; Lisa Gormley, Policy Fellow – Centre for Women, Peace and Security, London School of Economics and Political Science; Liz Dominey, Chair – UK Programme Action Committee, Soroptimist International Great Britain, and Ireland; Dr Marsha Scott, Chief Executive Officer – Scottish Women’s Aid; Melissa Green, General Secretary – The Women’s Institute; Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Executive Director – FORWARD; Nicki Norman, Acting Chief Executive Officer – Women’s Aid Federation of England; Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, Chief Executive Officer – Surviving Economic Abuse; Pragna Patel, Director – Southall Black Sisters; Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive Officer – Refuge; Sarah Green, Director – Ending violence against women coalition; Sara Kirkpatrick, Chief Executive Officer – Welsh Women’s Aid; Sarah Mason, Chief Executive Officer – Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland; Suzanne Jacob, Chief Executive Officer – Safe Lives; and Wales Assembly of Women.

For more information about this campaign, click here.

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