SZ: Protecting women from violence should be considered a goal that no one questions. Now there are efforts in Turkey, but also with Poland, an EU member, to move away from the Istanbul Convention of all places.

Evelyn Regner: I almost fell out of my shoes when I heard about Poland. After an election, a government should normally take steps to unite the population, instead it does this provocation.

Poland is not the only EU country where there is opposition to the Istanbul Convention, it also exists in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and Hungary’s parliament voted against ratification. What is behind it?

It’s about ideology. Because actually there is no democratic state in the world that could oppose protecting women from violence. For ideological reasons, however, something is interpreted in the Istanbul Convention that is not in there – gender issues.

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So also questions of equality, for example of homosexual or transsexual people, those groups that are summarized as LGTB. Everything that disturbs right-wing nationalist politicians and conservative church circles.

Of course, I am also in favor of the full equality and protection of these groups. But the fact is simple, that’s not what the Istanbul Convention is about. This was also confirmed by an expert opinion drawn up when Armenia acceded to the convention. It clearly stated that it is only about protecting women from violence and expressly also from domestic violence. It is about help for victims, prevention, money for women’s shelters and the like and of course the corresponding criminal law. Everything to signal the women, there are places to turn to.

Why is there resistance in some countries?

Domestic violence against women is the largest systematic human rights violation worldwide. For women, their own four walls are still the most dangerous place. It got worse in the Corona crisis. And that it comes to light, is increasingly thematized, provokes some. It triggers social discomfort and questions patriarchal social images in particular. When a man is no longer allowed to hit women, he is deprived of power over their bodies, and the convention can also be a first step for the economic independence of women in certain countries. The existing structure of power begins to falter – in which, incidentally, many women have established themselves.

There are certain countries in which the convention is rejected.

It is no wonder that she especially dislikes governments that slide into authoritarianism. And it is a shame that they do not want to protect Polish women and Hungarian women in Poland and Hungary.

Church officials are also spokesmen for the convention in some countries.

I find it unbearable if churches actively oppose the convention. Then charity obviously does not apply in your own four walls. I would like the churches to take a much clearer stand against violence against women and for the goals of the convention.

Would the European Parliament have leverage to persuade member countries to ratify the convention?

We will insist on the rule of law review in Parliament in relation to the multiannual EU financial framework and the means to deal with the Corona crisis. And we will make sure that 50 percent of the funds are used for women.

The Istanbul Convention is an agreement of the Council of Europe, which also includes non-EU countries, since there are different voting procedures and majority relationships.

You can’t overrule countries. But the main goal of the convention is to implement the content, not the symbolism, to belong to it. And there is always a plan B. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has already indicated that there could be a separate EU strategy for the protection of violence if this should not be possible within the Council of Europe.

How does that work?

Then the content of the Istanbul Convention could be extracted, and the Commission could submit corresponding EU guidelines for the member countries. I also praise the German Council Presidency, the German family minister Franziska Giffey has already told us that protection against violence is at the forefront for them.