We, members of Bulgarian Platform EWL and Hungarian Women’s Lobby believe that the common misconceptions about the Convention needs common and united efforts.
The Bulgarian Platform of the European Women’s Lobby and the Hungarian Women’s Lobby, both full members of the EWL, unite their efforts for standing up against the lies of far-rights and conservative movements against the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). Combined efforts, energy and feminist power is a step forward on protection of every woman and girls from violence. This initiative is sending a message that the women movement is stronger than the conservative movements and forces that turn women into victims of violence and treat them as a private property.
In May 2020 the Hungarian parliament rejected the ratification of the CoE Convention, backing a government declaration that the measure promotes “destructive gender ideologies” and “illegal migration”. The Hungarian parliament, which has one of the lowest proportions of female lawmakers in Europe, maintained that Hungarian law already ensured that women were legally protected. Moreover, according to the majority, the Istanbul Convention could promote ‘illegal migration’ (it calls for protection to be guaranteed to victims of gender violence) and ‘gender ideology’, which is considered to be ideologically contrary to Hungarian law and the beliefs of the government.
In July 2018, the Bulgarian Constitutional Court declared the CoE Convention not constitutional because of the term gender. A modification of the Constitution will be needed in order to ratify. Most of the Bulgarian politicians welcomed the decision of the Court as a victory against the “gender ideology”. Since then the same false arguments against the Convention are in use and regularly spread in the , together with other political parties.
Bulgaria’s refusal to ratify the Istanbul Convention is a national manifestation of a transnationally circulating global anti-gender movement. European states and institutions that created and promoted the Istanbul Convention should be deeply concerned by the Bulgarian court’s – and politicians’ — distortion of the treaty’s efforts to combat violence against women. Such gross misrepresentations demonize organizations working to prevent and respond to domestic and other violence against women, and anyone who seeks their help. It silences discussion of such violence and, more broadly, of discrimination against women. And it reinforces the idea that family violence is a private matter, and even acceptable. In light of the proliferation of myths and misconceptions about the Istanbul Convention and even threats of withdrawal, there is an increasing need a common strategy to be developed by the civil society aiming to raise awareness and understanding amongst key decision makers and the general public on the actual content of the Convention.
The initiative implemented by the Bulgarian Platform – EWL and the Hungarian Women’s Lobby gave the opportunity civil society organisations and politicians and stakeholders, who are possible allies of the IC from Bulgaria and Hungary to discuss, analyse and develop strategy how to overcome missconceptions and falses common to both countries about the Convention. We aim at raising awareness on the Convention amongst key political decision-makers who are neutral or undecided about their stance regarding the Convention in Bulgaria and Hungary. We believe our initiative will support the process of ratification and effective implementation of the Convention in other countries, and, in addition, will contribute to the process of harmonisation of the legislation on VAW and DV at the EU level.
We organized our common meeting in December 2022 to share expertise and develop common strategy on how to pave the way to a ratification of the Convention. We developed a key message for supporting the development of Strategy and action plan aiming to debunk false narratives, myths and misconceptions about the Istanbul Convention. The key messages can be used in both countries to overcome the negative attitudes about the Convention and to mobilise decision-makers and the general public to highlight the aims and importance of the Convention.
Key messages for supporting the development of Strategy and action plan aiming to debunk false narratives, myths and misconceptions about the Istanbul Convention
- Continue to speak the truth, dismantle misinformation and false narratives about the Istanbul Convention
- Highlight realities of women, survivors of violence against women
- Use statistic – official statistic from your national statistic institutions, the Eurostat source and other official sources, and provide additional data provided by NGOs in your country
- Provide information about the costs of Violence against women and DV – see the EIGE’ study: The costs of gender-based violence in the European Union
- Lobby for the values, aims, provisions and benefits described in the Istanbul Convention without stressing the concept “Istanbul Convention” that triggers resistance and already deeply infused with misconceptions
- Focus on the 4 pillars: prevention, protection, prosecution and co-ordinated policies
- Present a comparison between the situation of women in our country and in those who already ratified the Istanbul Convention underlining the benefits, good practices, changes and available statistics
- Highlight key achievements of the Istanbul Convention in neighboring countries
Source: EWL (2020): “Towards a Europe free from male violence against women and girls”
- Analyse the public discourse and use simplified arguments as well as engaging visuals for target groups in the social media
- Avoid getting lost in the details of explaining the term gender, instead center the terms violence against women, rights and safety of women
- Work on a local level, mobilise and engage local politicians, decision makers, municipality stakeholders in an honest discussion about the Istanbul Convention
- Bring closer the work of women’s rights organisations and the preventive and responsive services they provide to build trust, strengthen their visibility and social base to combat their demonisation
- Regularly analyse the political situation in your country and use all opportunities to attract possible allies