Lithua­nia pro­cras­ti­nates rat­i­fi­ca­tion of Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion

Baltic News Network - - News -

The su­per­sti­tions and the stereo­types in Lithua­nia are stronger than the good will to tackle do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and women abuse.

The rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion has stalled in the Seimas, Lithua­nian leg­is­la­ture – the ques­tion has been rubbed out from the Seimas’ Spring Ses­sion agenda and is un­likely it will end up be­ing there in the fore­seen fu­ture.

The bone of con­tention is the def­i­ni­tion of gen­der and its Lithua­nian trans­la­tion, ap­proved by the government chan­cellery, as «so­cial gen­der».

«I be­lieve that be­ing Con­ser­va­tive Lithua­nia is not up to it,» Kęs­tutis Girnius, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst of US de­scent, com­mented to BNN. Mean­while, Vy­gau­das Ušackas, one of the plau­si­ble pres­i­den­tial elec­tion can­di­dates, sited to BNN «com­plex­ity» of the is­sue and de­clined to com­ment on it.

«I feel my knowl­edge on the is­sues con­tains quite some gaps,» he ad­mit­ted.

«I am not sur­prised that the Seimas voted against the in­clu­sion of the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Con­ven­tion in the par­lia­men­tary ses­sion. When many of the MPs live in the me­dieval ages, it has be­come the real buga­boo to scare all,» Dovilė Šakalienė, a pro­gres­sive MP, told BNN.

The rul­ing Farm­ers and Greens (LVŽS), the op­po­si­tion Con­ser­va­tives, the Elec­toral Ac­tion of Poles, the Or­der and Jus­tice Party and the Labour partly are staunchly against it. Only the So­cial Democrats and the be­lea­guered Lib­er­als ex­hort to vote for the Coun­cil of Europe’s Con­ven­tion on Pre­vent­ing and Com­bat­ing Vi­o­lence Against Women and Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence, known as the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion, in its en­tirety.

The LVŽS has re­fused to rat­ify the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion the Lithua­nian Par­lia­ment’s Spring Ses­sion, ar­gu­ing that it is be­ing «as­sessed con­tro­ver­sially».

In jus­ti­fy­ing the de­ci­sion, the «farm­ers» call on all to pay more at­ten­tion im­prov­ing Lithua­nian leg­is­la­tion on pro­tec­tion of women against vi­o­lence and pro­vid­ing as­sis­tance to all women who have suf­fered from abuse.

Ac­cord­ing to Ramū­nas Kar­bauskis, the head of the LVŽS par­lia­men­tary fac­tion, in the text of the dec­la­ra­tion sub­mit­ted by the «farm­ers», at­ten­tion is drawn to the fact that the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion is by its na­ture a leg­isla­tive con­ven­tion, pri­mar­ily aimed at those mem­bers of the Coun­cil of Europe who have not yet es­tab­lished woman’s le­gal pro­tec­tion against vi­o­lence.

At present, the leader of LVŽS notes, the Lithua­nian le­gal sys­tem has al­ready reached the orig­i­nal ob­jec­tive of the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion: it ap­plies all the main pro­vi­sions of the fight against vi­o­lence against women, which the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion seeks to im­ple­ment, and these pro­vi­sions can be im­proved with­out rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion.

«The only in­no­va­tion that this con­ven­tion would bring to us is the con­cept of «gen­der», which can be am­bigu­ously in­ter­preted as a con­cept that does not rec­og­nize the hu­man sex as a hu­man na­ture. Such an in­ter­pre­ta­tion in the le­gal sys­tem of Lithua­nia would en­dan­ger fam­ily pol­icy con­sis­tently based on mar­riage of a man and a woman, and re­la­tions be­tween kin­ship, pa­ter­nity and ma­ter­nity. The Par­lia­ment sup­ported such a fam­ily pol­icy by adopt­ing the law on the en­hance­ment of the fam­ily in au­tumn ses­sion. I think that, with the re­newed de­bate on the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion, it is im­por­tant for us in the Par­lia­ment to form a broad-based coali­tion based on val­ues,» Kar­bauskis em­pha­sised.

Yet, with the Law on Pro­tec­tion against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence passed in Lithua­nia in 2011, vi­o­lence against women re­mains an acute prob­lem to this day. Since the pas­sage of the law, re­ports of vi­o­lence have in­creased al­most four­fold, with al­most 70,000 cases recorded in 2016.

Once again, at the cusp of dis­agree­ments is the trans­la­tion of the con­cepts of «gen­der» into the Lithua­nian lan­guage as «so­cial gen­der».

The Speaker of the Par­lia­ment Vik­toras Pranck­i­etis says mean­while that part of the con­ven­tion’s prin­ci­ples is in­com­pat­i­ble with the «peas­ant» pro­gram, although be­fore the 2016 par­lia­men­tary elec­tion he vol­un­tar­ily posed for a pho­to­graph with a poster ex­press­ing sup­port for the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion.

«We are not the only coun­try rais­ing ques­tions on this part (the def­i­ni­tion of gen­der), there­fore, I do not think we should rush to rat­ify the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion,» Pranck­i­etis has said.

Most re­cently, he hinted that Lithua­nia may rat­ify the Con­ven­tion with «cer­tain ex­cep­tions», i.e. those re­gard­ing the sub­ject of gen­der.

Among the Cab­i­net mem­bers, only Prime Min­is­ter Saulius Skver­nelis and For­eign Min­is­ter Li­nas Linke­vičius have spo­ken out for the full em­brace of the doc­u­ment. «…In a state where al­most 50 per cent of cit­i­zens be­lieve that the vic­tims of vi­o­lence, usu­ally women, are guilty, we must take our own con­clu­sions. To delve into other ar­gu­ments, whether it is in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the gen­der con­cept, or other things, it’s sim­ply dis­grace­ful,» has said Linke­vičius, point­ing out that the leg­is­la­tion has been rat­i­fied by many Euro­pean Union coun­tries, in­clud­ing those with the strong Catholic tra­di­tions, like Spain, Italy, Malta and Poland.

As the For­eign Min­is­ter, Li­nas Linke­vičius signed the Con­ven­tion along with the other EU Mem­ber States’ high of­fi­cials in 2013. The Lithua­nian Bish­ops’ Con­fer­ence, the rul­ing body of the Lithua­nian Catholic Church, has said that the Con­ven­tion would make Lithua­nia change its gen­der con­cept and in­tro­duce un­ac­cept­able no­tions about ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

Some con­ser­va­tive MPs be­lieve the Con­ven­tion would bring con­fu­sion to the le­gal sys­tem and un­der­mine the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the fam­ily pol­icy.

In early March, the Lithua­nian So­cial Se­cu­rity and Labour Min­istry pro­posed to post­pone the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion on pre­vent­ing and com­bat­ing vi­o­lence against women un­til a com­pro­mise is reached on the con­cept of gen­der.

«… we be­lieve that in or­der to pre­pare re­spon­si­bly for the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the con­ven­tion, it would be ap­pro­pri­ate to post­pone the rat­i­fi­ca­tion,» Deputy So­cial Se­cu­rity and Labour Min­is­ter Vilma Augienė said in a let­ter to the For­eign Min­istry in March. Only the op­po­si­tion So­cial Demo­cratic Party (SDP) and the scan­dal-en­gulfed Lib­er­als are call­ing for the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Con­ven­tion in Lithua­nia.

Gin­tau­tas Paluckas, the SDP leader, says that there’s only one im­por­tant is­sue when dis­cussing the Con­ven­tion, i.e. the preven­tion of vi­o­lence against women and other per­son or not.

«It’s the prin­ci­ple of world-view as of­ten a con­ser­va­tive and in­ert mi­nor­ity mo­nop­o­lizes the right to de­cide on be­half of the so­ci­ety… the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion does not pose any threat,» Paluckas said this week. Mean­while his deputy MEP Vil­ija Blinke­vičiūtė says Lithua­nia looks strange, to say the least, pro­cras­ti­nat­ing the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of his con­ven­tion.

«It’s a shame that Lithua­nia is drag­ging this process. We of­ten com­pare our­selves to Es­to­nia, but the Es­to­nian al­ready rat­i­fied the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion dur­ing the EU pres­i­dency. Who are we match­ing? Bul­garia, Rus­sia, Azer­bai­jan who have not even signed the Con­ven­tion? Vi­o­lence can­not be jus­ti­fied in any way,» she said. Lithua­nia is not alone in bristling against the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion. Dur­ing the cou­ple of the last months the Bul­gar­ian and Slo­vak pre­miers have made dec­la­ra­tions of re­fusal to rat­ify the Con­ven­tion; in Croa­tia and Hun­gary rat­i­fi­ca­tion has been post­poned; hot de­bate is tak­ing place in Latvia.

The Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion has not yet been rat­i­fied by 18 sig­na­to­ries of the Coun­cil of Europe, in­clud­ing the United King­dom, Lux­em­bourg, Ire­land, Ice­land, Greece and the Czech Repub­lic.

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