EU online consultation (deadline: 21 July 2015) http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/gender-equality/opinion/150421_en.htm
The EC announces its online consultation as an opportunity for Member States; social partner organisations; civil society organisations with an interest in gender equality issues, violence against women, and/or social issues; equality bodies; and other organisations or individuals to provide direct input equality between women and men in the EU. It is an opportunity to let our voices and views heard. We ask all members to fill in the questionnaire strongly as the discussions in the European Parliament are difficult to say the least.
A new EU strategy is now being discussed and the European Parliament report on the EU strategy for equality between women and men post 2015 (by Maria Noichl MEP) was recently voted on in the FEMM committee. It contains a chapter on VAW incl. reference to the Istanbul Convention, which conservative MEPs tried to remove through amendments. References to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) were also challenged by the conservative forces, but were passed.
However, the expectation is- when all stays the same- that in the run up to the vote of the report in EP plenary (scheduled for the 8 – 11 June session), the conservative forces in the EP and in civil society will mobilise strongly to get the EP to vote down the whole report (or to table an alternative resolution, as was done for the Estrela report)! So at the EP, the future of an EU strategy on gender equality may be undermined by well organised ultra conservative groups.This while in the recent Eurobarometer survey on gender equality, Violence against Women was cited most often – 59% – as the gender inequality issue that should be dealt with most urgently, and sexual violence (72%) and violence in close relationships (57%) are named as the priority ones that the EU should tackle.
The topic of ending VAW was featured prominently as a priority throughout the consultation on the new Gender equality strategy, and the Istanbul Convention was repeatedly referred to. At the forum, which was organised based on participatory moderating techniques (cf. Art of Hosting), there were several sessions that focused on ending VAW and the Istanbul Convention. With regard to possible future EU actions related to ending Violence against Women a number of issues were discussed, many related to the Istanbul Convention. The EC remains rather elusive with regard to the scope / feasibility / legal base for a EU Directive, Strategy, Action Plan or accession to the Istanbul Convention. EU presidencies, even those that have made commitments, seem to be not following through (such as the Latvian EU Presidency).
In the midst of all this uncertainty, a few pragmatic steps related to the Istanbul Convention were discussed, which the EU could take even while waiting for the outcomes of the EC’s assessment on the feasibility/added value of accession:
a) to base all its future action related to ending VAW on the principles / obligations of the Convention (the shape this will take is to be defined – it could be an integral part of a strategy on gender equality, a stand-alone strategy/action plan on VAW, or integrated in other ways in EU policies if the worst case scenario happens, i.e. that there isn’t a strategy on gender equality)
b) to support member states in their efforts towards ratification and implementation of the Convention.
So let our voices be heard and fill in the online survey which is in fact a multiple choice survey with space for additional comments up to 1500 characters at the end. This leaves rather limited scope to develop further arguments on particular issues, especially since within each “chapter” (Violence against women being one of them), the survey asks to pick only 2 out of the list of suggested priorities (when choosing “other” among the listed choices, a text box opens, which provides an option to elaborate a bit further – given that the options that are provided are limiting and at times “comparing apples and oranges”, this might be a good option to use to bring in the interconnectedness of some issues). we would suggest that you complete the survey and mobilise your networks/national members to participate in the online consultation, to make sure that as many voices as possible are heard. When responding to the online consultation, you could consider including the points that were raised above, i.e. to call on the EC/EU to:
a) base all its future action related to ending VAW on the principles / obligations of the Convention (whatever shape this will take – for example, as an integral part of a strategy on gender equality, or as a stand-alone strategy/action plan on VAW, or even in a worst case scenario if there isn’t a strategy on gender equality) and
b) support member states with their efforts towards ratification and implementation of the Convention.