Malta, European Commission in joint call on EU to ratify domestic violence treaty

Civil liberties minister Helena Dalli and EU justice commissioner Vera Jurova urge EU to ratify Istanbul Convention on Domestic Violence 

Civil liberties minister Helena Dalli (left) and European Commissioner Vera Jurova (right) address a conference on domestic violence
Civil liberties minister Helena Dalli (left) and European Commissioner Vera Jurova (right) address a conference on domestic violence

Malta and the European Commission joined forces in urging the EU to ratify the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty on clamping down against violence against women and domestic violence.

Addressing a conference on violence against women at the Le Meridien Hotel, civil liberties minister Helena Dalli pledged that Malta will use its current position as President of the EU Council to pressure the EU into signing the Convention as an institution.

The Istanbul Convention – a Council of Europe convention launched in 2011 – seeks to clamp down on domestic violence by, amongst others, criminalizing non-consensual sex, stalking, forced marriages, and female genital mutilation.

Malta is one of 21 countries who have ratified the Convention, and a Bill was recently tabled to bring Maltese legislation fully in line with the treay.

“The EU must bring out its social soul and show that it cares about women who are trapped in abusive relationships because they are financially dependent on their husbands,” she said. “The EU must send out a sign that it is ready to take action against domestic violence.”

EU Justice and Gender Equality Commissioner Vera Jurova lambasted as an “absolute disgrace” the prevalence of violence against women across Europe.

She cited recent Eurobarometer statistics which indicate that a third of European women aged 15 and over have experienced some sort of gender-based violence. Meanwhile, a quarter of survey respondents said tat non-consensual sex is acceptable in “certain circumstances”, while only one tenth of domestic violence victims report such incidents to the police.

However, she dismissed calls by MEPs at the conference for the European Commission to issue a directive to clamp down on gender-based violence, warning that such a move could prove counter-productive as member states have different views of what constitutes domestic violence.

“What Swedish women see as sexual harassment, some southern European women take as a compliment. This tradition cannot be changed overnight, and we need to first change the mindset of society and of the victims themselves – who often feel guilty and that they deserve the violence.”

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