• Sanskriti IAS - अखिल मूर्ति के निर्देशन में

Ukraine and its women’s rights

  • 24th June, 2022

(Mains GS 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.)

Context:

  • Recently, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a Bill on June 20 ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

About Istanbul Convention:

  • The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence is better known as the Istanbul Convention.
  • The Istanbul Convention was adopted by the Committee of Ministers and opened for signature in Istanbul on 11 May 2011. 
  • The Convention entered into force on 1 August 2014, and recognizes gender-based violence against women as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination.
  • The Istanbul Convention is the most far-reaching international treaty designed to set legally binding standards for governments in Europe for the prevention, protection, and prosecution of gender-based violence.
  • It is the most comprehensive legal framework that exists to tackle violence against women and girls, covering domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation (FGM), so-called honour-based violence, and forced marriage.

Step in right direction:

  • While the convention was first signed by Ukraine in 2011, the government, for years, remained stubbornly mute on the subject and continued to delay its ratification because of opposition by religious and conservative groups over the term “gender” used in the document.
  • Ukraine in fact, came close to ratifying the convention in 2016 but failed after a majority in Parliament voted against it. 
  • As a result, until today, Ukraine was one of the 11 countries that had signed but never ratified the Istanbul Convention.
  • However, the government’s recent decision to ratify the convention is a huge step forward for the protection of women and girls from all forms of violence, whether in Ukraine or abroad, and could not be more timely for a number of reasons.

Gender-based violence:

  • The risk of women becoming victims of gender-based violence in Ukraine has increased immensely over the course of Russia’s eight-year war. 
  • In fact, the increasing number of reports that have emerged since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in late February 2022 only suggests that the Russian troops have been using rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war and instrument of terror to control civilians. 
  • These fears were further crystallised following Russian withdrawal from Bucha, when some nearly 20 women and girls were assaulted by forces in a basement, nine of whom became pregnant from the assault.

Confidence to seek justice:

  • Although, the Russian authorities have denied alleged sexual abuse by their troops, the truth is that women in Ukraine have been disproportionately affected by the war. 
  • And as the tensions continue to rise, the risk of gender-based violence will also be heightened, with survivors suffering more severe levels of abuse. 
  • The prompt implementation of the convention could thus equip the Ukrainian authorities to deal with these atrocities and serve to reassure the survivors and provide them with the confidence to seek justice.

Expand the list of abuse:

  • The convention’s ratification will expand ‘the list of abuse against women punishable by law in Ukraine — including but not limited to psychological abuse, stalking, forced marriage, physical and sexual abuse, forced abortion, sterilisation’.
  • It also provides the authorities with the opportunity to bring about changes in its legislation and institutional procedures. 
  • In furtherance, it will also mean that Ukraine will be responsible for financing more shelters for women, training social workers to adequately handle cases of sexual violence, and increase resources of assistance available for victims.

Ukraine’s European integration:

  • Apart from being a decisive step in the fight against gender-based violence, the adoption of the Istanbul Convention will also help in Ukraine’s European integration
  • Guaranteeing human rights is the most important aspect that is considered when European Union (EU) membership is being extended to a country. 
  • It has thus been crucial for Ukraine to demonstrate actions that will bring the country closer to European legislations and values and a good way of doing this is through the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. 
  • The decision is in fact, of particular significance for the Netherlands and Sweden, two ‘sceptical’ countries that were initially blocking Ukraine’s candidate seat but have now eventually agreed to back EU member status for Ukraine.

Conclusion:

  • The ratification of Istanbul convention is a big milestone for Ukraine and has been applauded by many institutions, including the United Nations Human Rights Council and the EU Commission on human rights in the hope that it will decrease both the number of gender-based violence and domestic violence cases.
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