The UK should NOT ratify the Istanbul Convention

A briefing by Gender Parity UK.

The full name of the ‘Istanbul Convention’ is: Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

Signed by the UK in 2011, but not yet ratified.

Summary: Why the UK should not ratify it?

There are many important components in the Convention which should be part of UK law in gender-neutral format.  However, we hope to highlight that The Istanbul Convention is based on a set of ideas (ideology) which many people do not agree with and which, if implemented, can have harmful effects.

Gender Parity UK has looked at a range of documents which all appeared to focus on one gender (women) to the detriment of male victims.  These included:

  • UK Domestic Abuse Bill (Guidance)
  • Law Commission Hate Crime consultation
  • Violence against women and girls (VAWG) strategy
  • Duluth model (power and control)
  • Police training material

We found the same patterns of bias in all these documents:

  • Men as perpetrators – and hence ‘guilty’
  • Women as victims – and hence in need of special protection
  • When men do harm to women they are motivated by ‘power and control’;
  • When men are being violent to a woman it’s because she is a women (misogyny), rather than any other reason.

These biases imply that violence against men is less important and that ‘violence against men and boys’ is just a sub-set of VAWG!

What about the Equalities Act?

To highlight these  issues, we appealed to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), as they are the upholders of the Equalities Act, which, we had assumed, was about equality, in this case, between the sexes.

We asked how we could use the Equalities Act to challenge the bias in two of these documents.  Their reply astonished us.  According to the EHRC these documents do NOT contradict the Act because:

“Recognition of domestic abuse as a gendered crime is also key to fulfilling the UK’s international legal obligations under the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention), the implementation of which is one of the Government’s key aims in bringing forward the Domestic Abuse Bill.”

The ‘Istanbul Convention’?

We then looked at the Istanbul Convention to see how this was possible.  The Convention is absolutely clear about its assumptions and required actions.  We quote from the text.

 Article 3 – Definitions

c   “gender” shall mean the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men;

They claim that gender is not essentially determined by the sex you are born with, but it is ‘socially constructed’ and, therefore, a matter of choice.

Do we want our government to make this our law?

Article 3 – Definitions

d   “gender‐based violence against women” shall mean violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately;

This definition is highly problematic.   The first part of the definition: “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman” only accounts for about 3% of the VAWG and “or that affects women disproportionately” only includes a proportion of VAWG (such as rape and FGM) as most is applicable to both sexes (and LGBT)

The Istanbul Convention (IC) cannot, therefore protect women from most violence because it ignores that:

Most violence against women is not motivated by gender. Common reasons for violence include:

  • 50-60% of the total is couple violence, involving both partners
  • Drug and alcohol abuse are common
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Growing up in a violent family is a common ‘intergenerational’ effects
  • Many abusive adults had traumatic childhood experiences

Also, If VAWG is motivated by sexism, misogyny etc, the only way to prevent it is to remove that ‘bad trait’ in men.  Examples of methods:

  • Retrain men to end their ‘Toxic masculinity’.
  • Reduce the differences between men and women by making men more feminine.

Is this what we want in the UK?

Article 4 – Fundamental rights, equality and non‐discrimination

This is at the heart of the anti-male narrative. 

Paragraph 3 in this section clearly states that “The implementation of the provisions of this Convention by the Parties,…… shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, gender, race, colour, language,….etc”

However, the very next paragraph states: “Special measures that are necessary to prevent and protect women from gender‐based violence shall not be considered discrimination under the terms of this Convention.”

This means that if the government discriminates against men (or another group) by acting in favour of women, then this is not discrimination!

This was confirmed in our reply from the EHRC and the justifications we received for bias in the documents we reviewed.

Article 14 – Education

1 Parties shall take, where appropriate, the necessary steps to include teaching material on issues such as ……, gender‐based violence against women ……, adapted to the evolving capacity of learners, in formal curricula and at all levels of education.

….. in informal educational facilities, as well as in sports, cultural and leisure facilities and the media.”


Taken together with Article 3, that gender is ‘socially constructed’; our children MUST now being taught:

  • Men are violent
  • Women are victims
  • Gender is a choice (You may be transgender).
  • Choose your pronouns.

Do we want our children to be taught these ideas?

Article 16 – Preventive intervention and treatment programmes

 1   ”Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to set up or support programmes aimed at teaching perpetrators of domestic violence to adopt non‐violent behaviour in interpersonal relationships with a view to preventing further violence and changing violent behavioural patterns.”

This sounds fine when written in this gender-neutral language, however, the IC has already defined interpersonal violence as ‘a gendered crime’, and assumes that perpetrators are mostly men.

There are only perpetrator programs for men in UK.

Do we want to continue to ignore female perpetrators and not offer help to them?

Article 18 – General obligations

3   Parties shall ensure that measures taken pursuant to this chapter shall: –   

“be based on a gendered understanding of violence against women and domestic violence and shall focus on the human rights and safety of the victim;”

Do you want our laws to have this assumption?

Consequences of Istanbul Convention

This means that it is compliance with the IC which is (at least partly) responsible for:

  • The gender bias in the documents we have looked at
  • The anti-male interpretation of the Equalities Act
  • The damage to the family by the claim that gender-differences are social/cultural (not biological)
  • The confusion over gender in young people
  • The bias in the Family Court which assumes the women is the victim.
  • Ignoring of violence against men and boys

Alternative strategy

To solve these problems, do not ratify the Istanbul Convention.  Simply ensure that all the elements of the Istanbul Convention are included in UK law but in a gender-neutral way.

  • Either: Create a general strategy for tackling violence against individuals of both sexes
  • Or: create a parallel violence against men and boys strategy (VAMB)
  • Change the remit of the EHRC (Equalities and Human Rights Commission) so that it implements the Equalities Act so that it protects both sexes.
  • If Hate Crime legislation is necessary, make it a general offence, applicable to any situation involving hate.

Gender Parity UK 2021

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