138 to 1 – Third reading passed for Istanbul Convention in the UK

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, a.k.a. the “Istanbul Convention”, is based on the understanding that violence against women is a form of gender-based violence that is committed against women because they are women. The Convention, drawn up in Istanbul in 2011, opens the possibility of creating a legal framework to protect women from domestic and other forms of violence, as well as preventing, prosecuting and eliminating violence at all levels.

Hailed by some as “life-saving”, the Convention sets minimum standards for governments to meet when tackling violence against women and girls. These include guaranteed funding for shelters and rape crisis centres, support helplines, and ensuring children are taught about healthy relationships as part of a standard school curriculum.

In 2012, the UK signed this pan-European treaty, but had until the start of this year not ratified it, meaning it was not yet legally binding in this country and leaving the door open for governments to avoid implementing its measures. SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford tabled the Istanbul Convention Bill and its ratification went to a vote on Friday 24th February.

Despite a 93-minute filibuster from Conservative MP Philip Davies claiming the bill was “sexist”, the bill passed with 138 votes in favour and Davies’ 1 vote in opposition. Described by the UN as the “gold standard”, the ratification of this legislation marks an important step along the path to ending violence against women and girls.