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There is no international consensus against the Istanbul Convention. Ordo Iuris memorandum for MPs

Published: 09.02.2024

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- The first reading of the civic bill "Yes to family, no to gender" is underway in the Sejm.

- This bill concerns consent to the denunciation of the Istanbul Convention and the creation of a Team for the development of the principles of the International Convention on the Rights of the Family

- Since Poland ratified the Convention, this international document has been rejected by a number of countries - including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Israel and Hungary.

- Doubts about the ratification of the Convention concern its ineffectiveness in the area of combating violence, as well as the violation of the principle of the state's worldview impartiality or the imposition of controversial curricular assumptions on education programs at every level.

- The Convention is also accused of fostering illegal migration or introducing wording that contradicts constitutional terminology (changing the meaning of the terms "woman" and "man").

- In some of the countries that have rejected the Convention (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovakia), opposition to it has emerged from all sides of the political scene, including from left-wing circles.

- The Ordo Iuris Institute has prepared an analysis describing how the Convention was rejected by selected countries.

- The analysis was handed over to Polish MPs.

The stated goal of the Istanbul Convention is to combat domestic violence and violence against women. However, the document is based on the ideological assumptions of gender theory, which assumes that femininity and masculinity are cultural creations that reinforce systemically unequal power relations. The convention sees the sources of violence as systemic social tensions, supposedly stemming from culturally imposed and reinforced gender roles. In doing so, the act ignores phenomena scientifically described as the real causes of violence, such as alcoholism, drug addiction and pornography.

In Poland, accession to the Convention has raised numerous voices of doubt. In 2020, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki submitted a request to the Constitutional Court to examine the constitutionality of the Convention's provisions. The request was withdrawn by Prime Minister Donald Tusk in January this year.

Criticism of the Convention's assumptions is also present in international forums. In recent years, several countries have refused to ratify the document or have denounced it. In some of them (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovakia), opposition to the Convention has emerged from all sides of the political scene, including from circles describing themselves as left-wing.

An example of a country that has rejected the Istanbul Convention is Bulgaria. In July 2018, the Constitutional Court there ruled that the document is incompatible with the country's constitution. The Court pointed out that the Convention's current "framing of 'gender' as a social construct leads to relativization of the category of biological sex. However, if society loses the ability to distinguish between women and men, combating violence against women remains only a formal but unenforceable obligation." The judgment also stressed that the Convention contradicts the constitutional principle of the rule of law by introducing two mutually exclusive definitions of gender. The Court reiterated its position three years later, pointing out in October 2021 that it was impermissible to reinterpret the concept of gender "in a direction which, in the opinion of science, is not unambiguous and irrefutable, and to which there is no public consensus."

In 2020. The convention was rejected by an overwhelming majority by Slovakia's National Council. During the debate on the issue, Social Democratic Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico announced his opposition to the agreement. Opponents of the Convention pointed out, among other things, that the document is incompatible with the Slovak constitution insofar as it defines marriage and that it introduces a misunderstanding of the term "sex." In Hungary, on the other hand, in 2020. The National Assembly adopted a declaration calling on the government not to ratify the Istanbul Convention. Parliamentarians pointed out that Hungarian law already protects women's rights and disagreed with the introduction of the term "gender" into the legal order.

In January of this year, the Convention was rejected by the Czech Senate. A majority of representatives of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) and part of the liberal TOP 09 voted against ratification. During the debate, the senators pointed out, among other things, that the Convention does not regulate anything that would not already be part of the Czech legal order for protection against violence, and that the document introduces ambiguous concepts such as "gender" into the legal order. In Lithuania, on the other hand, the Convention has been referred to the Constitutional Court by the Seimas to examine its compatibility with the Lithuanian Constitution.

Israel also refused to join the Convention. There, they pointed mainly to the mass immigration problems that ratification of the document would cause. This is because the Convention's immigration provisions grant political asylum to international victims of domestic violence.

The Ordo Iuris Institute, in a memorandum handed over to Polish MPs, pointed to the criticism the Istanbul Convention faces internationally. It also pointed out that an alternative to this act is the draft Convention on the Rights of the Family, initiated by social organizations from across Europe, which responds to the problems and threats facing the institution of the family today, and introduces effective instruments to combat domestic violence. The document also emphasizes that it is a strong family that is the space that protects all its members most effectively from violence.

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