The Council of Europe Istanbul Convention is the most comprehensive international human rights treaty on violence against women and domestic violence. This legally binding instrument explicitly defines violence against women as a human rights violation and a form of gender-based discrimination and includes a strong emphasis on prevention and survivors’ rights. In addition to Council of Europe Member States, it can be ratified by the European Union and is open for accession by any State in the world.
The Istanbul Convention reflects a comprehensive approach covering the areas of prevention, protection (including provision of support services for survivors), prosecution, and coordinated policies. In addition to its focus on survivors’ rights and protection, it also encourages action over the longer term through prevention measures, and requires the establishment of specialised institutions, partnerships, substantial budget allocations and data collection to ensure effective implementation.
As of May 2016, more than three-quarters (42 of 47) of the countries that are Council of Europe members have signed the Convention and 22 of them have also ratified it: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.
The European Commission proposed on 4 March 2016 the European Union’s accession to the Convention. The Istanbul Convention would become the second human rights treaty binding the EU, after the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The EU would accede to the Convention alongside EU Member States. As of May 2016, 14 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) have already ratified the Convention. A further 14 Member States have signed it but not yet ratified.