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UK policy on ratifying the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women

Published Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This Commons Library Briefing Paper gives background to Dr Eilidh Whiteford's Private Members' Bill requiring the UK Government to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women (the "Istanbul Convention").

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What is the Istanbul Convention?

The “Istanbul Convention” is a Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

The Convention was adopted by the Council of Europe on 7 April 2011 and opened for signature on 11 May 2011 at the 121st Session of the Committee of Ministers in Istanbul. It came into force on 1 August 2014.

The UK signed the Convention on 8 June 2012 but has not ratified it. The Government has said that it is committed to ratification but that amendments to domestic law - to take extra-territorial jurisdiction over a range of offences - are necessary before this can be done.

Calls for UK ratification

A February 2015 report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights called on the then Government “to prioritise ratification of the Istanbul Convention”.

There is an IC Change campaign calling for the Government to ratify the Convention.

Women’s Aid and Scottish Women’s Aid have both called for ratification.

Amnesty International has said that Governments across Europe should ratify the Convention.

Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill 2016-17

Dr Eilidh Whiteford has introduced a Private Members’ Bill requiring the Government to “take all reasonable steps as soon as reasonably practicable to enable the United Kingdom to become compliant” with the Convention.

The Bill extends to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 16 December 2016, and Committee stage in one sitting on 1 February 2017. It was not amended. However, the Government signalled its intention to table amendments at Report stage, and gave a brief explanation of what these would be. 

The Bill’s progress can be followed on the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence Bill 2016-17 pages of the Parliament website, along with amendments which have been tabled.

Report stage is on 24 February 2017.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7829

Authors: Pat Strickland; Grahame Allen

Topics: Crime, Crimes of violence

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