Human rights activist Anna Saenko: Convention destroys gender roles. There is not a word about the legalization of LGBT in it

Human rights activist Anna Saenko: Convention destroys gender roles. There is not a word about the legalization of LGBT in it

Ratified by Ukraine, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, called the Istanbul Convention, caused controversy and fears among citizens. They say that the document blesses non-traditional relationships, dozens of genders, same-sex relationships, and so on …

What is actually written in this document and how it can change the lives of Ukrainians, “KP in Ukraine” discussed with Anna Saenko, a human rights activist, an expert in the field of violence prevention, a lawyer who has worked for the international organization La Strada for a long time.

Ukrainian laws do not cover everything

– Anna, why does Ukraine need the Istanbul Convention to combat domestic violence if there is a Criminal Code?

Human rights activist Anna Saenko: The Convention destroys gender roles. There is not a word about the legalization of LGBT in it

Human rights activist Anna Saenko Photo:

– Not only the Criminal Code, but also the law on combating domestic violence, the law on equal rights and opportunities for men and women. Ukraine first brought its legislation to European standards, and only then voted for ratification. However, our laws do not fully cover the issues regulated by the Istanbul Convention.

– And what remains unsettled in Ukrainian laws, how will the Convention supplement our justice?

– The Istanbul Convention, for example, covers such a thing as “stalking” – persecution. In Ukraine, this is a very common phenomenon: after a breakup or “at the call of the soul”, a partner begins to pursue a person, frighten him, threaten him, etc., but without taking any active steps. Naturally, the injured party begins to fear for their lives. Such cases are not uncommon, but it is difficult to work with these cases, because there was no regulatory framework in Ukraine.

The Istanbul Convention, for example, covers such a thing as “stalking” – persecution.

The Convention also says that the crimes specified in the document must be open. We have only a private accusation: if there is a statement, for example, about domestic violence – there is a case, if there is no statement – there is no case. Or if the person withdraws the application, the case is closed.

And the Istanbul Convention clearly states: regardless of whether a person refuses to accuse or not, the case must still be considered by both law enforcement agencies and the court. That is, the aggressor must be held accountable in any case.

This document also contains paragraphs on the work of specialized services to help victims of violence. All these services must be available to the affected person. A person cannot travel 100 km from home to receive medical, socio-psychological, and human rights assistance. This is generally one of the main principles of the Istanbul Convention.

Summarizing the above: the protection of victims of violence is fully prescribed under the Convention.

The Pope on decree is the destruction of the gender role

– So far everything looks fair. But what does it say about gender, which caused such a fierce debate?

– We sometimes joke that gender is that babayka that everyone is afraid of, but no one has ever seen. So here too. If you read the definition of gender in the Istanbul Convention, then it does not carry anything terrible. It is only about sociocultural roles, and not about 50 genders that they allegedly try to impose on us.

The stereotypes about the Istanbul Convention come from people who have never read it. But they argue that the Convention allows the legalization of same-sex marriages (which is not mentioned in the text), the legalization of LGBT people (not a word about them either!). However, the word “gender” scares everyone.

Few people saw that the Istanbul Convention says, for example, that the parties to violence cannot be reconciled. In our country, very often, especially in religious communities, they say – “be patient!”. A woman gets married, her husband beats her – “be patient!”, “turn the other cheek” … That is, reconciliation of the parties occurs more often.

The Istanbul Convention speaks only of sociocultural roles, and not of the 50 genders that they are allegedly trying to impose on us.

And the Istanbul Convention speaks frankly: it's impossible! Violence should not be committed, especially against women, because they suffer disproportionately compared to men. But even here the Convention says that these are not only women's problems, but also men's.

That is, we conclude that not all “experts” have read the text of the Istanbul Convention and do not know what it covers.

In addition, when Ukraine ratified the Convention, it accepted a reservation: the provisions of the Convention will not affect adoption issues and changes to the Family Code.

– And what kind of “non-stereotypical gender roles” are they talking about? in Article 14 of the Convention?

– Gender roles are those that are accepted in the socio-cultural community. A woman is a homemaker, a mother, a housewife, a man is a breadwinner, a strong, a protector…. These are the very socio-cultural roles that are imposed by society. And if a person wants to go beyond this socio-cultural role? We have female military personnel and “dads on maternity leave” (a man on parental leave) – this is not quite traditional for us yet. This is what non-stereotypical gender roles are.

If everyone is afraid of gender equality, then I will note: it, like the issues of gender discrimination, is already regulated by the Law “On Ensuring Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men”, adopted back in 2005. The law works, it introduces the concept of “gender-based violence”, which is identical to the concept of “gender-based violence” in the Istanbul Convention.

– The same Article 14 of the Convention states: “The Parties shall take, where appropriate, the necessary steps to include pedagogical material on issues such as equality between women and men, non-stereotypical gender roles, mutual respect for gender-based violence against women and the right to personal integrity in formal curricula and at all levels of education.” Representatives of churches and part of the public are horrified: is this another lesson of “sex education” that will appear in schools?

We are all very afraid that children will be taught sexual culture. But we explain to children in understandable language what can happen and under what conditions.

– All of us are very afraid that children will be taught about sexual culture. But we're not talking about sexual orientation. We explain to children in understandable language what can happen and under what conditions. For example, how can a child protect himself if he is being sexually harassed. Nobody knows what to do in such situations.

And we have a high level of victim blaming when the victim is blamed for what happened. And to prevent this from happening, such training programs can be introduced. So many children suffer from sexual abuse, but they do not understand what is being done to them. Especially such cases can be in wartime.

The fine is not valid, it is necessary to toughen the punishment

– But we have all this in the legislation. Pedophilia, violence – for this there is an administrative and criminal responsibility. Perhaps the Convention speaks of tougher penalties for such crimes?

– It's hard to say yet, but it would be nice if even administrative penalties were tougher. Because a fine is ineffective.

Also, our judges like to close criminal proceedings to reconcile the parties in cases of domestic violence. Thus, they release the aggressor from responsibility. They influenced the victim – and she reconciled with the offender. And how many cases when, after such “reconciliations”, ongoing domestic violence ended in death on both sides?! The Istanbul Convention says: if there is reconciliation, then an agreement is signed, and anyway, this or that punishment is imposed on the aggressor.

– People's Deputy of Ukraine from the “Servant of the People” proposed to first ratify the Istanbul Convention, since Ukraine seeks to join the EU, and then to denounce it.

– Turkey can be cited as an example – after the country's withdrawal from the Istanbul convention there was a public scandal. Ukraine has been waiting 11 years for the ratification of this Convention in order to secure human rights and protection of these rights in it. Withdrawal from the Convention may lead to great public outcry and protests.

Withdrawal from the Convention may lead to great public outcry and protests.

However, we still have the personal opinion of one deputy who came up with something for himself. We can also assume that he is a hidden aggressor, for example.

– But the main opponents of the Istanbul Convention are representatives of religious organizations. They can influence the opinion of Ukrainians.

– According to the Constitution, Ukraine is a secular state, and the church is separated from the state. This is the first one.

Second. Different denominations view violence in different ways – for some it is considered acceptable, for others it is not. Recently, the human rights organization “Fulcrum” held a discussion on this topic with the participation of representatives of progressive Judaism, Islam and Christianity. It turned out that in progressive Judaism there is such a moment: if a member of the community commits domestic violence, then he is immediately expelled from the community – and this is a rather serious punishment. So not all religions encourage violence as an obligatory element of a traditional family.

There was a case

Levchuk v. Ukraine

The first Ukrainian case in the European Court on Domestic Violence was considered in September 2020. Irina Levchuk, a resident of Rivne, filed a lawsuit against Ukraine for the fact that the state did not fulfill its obligations to effectively protect against domestic violence.

The mother of four children, Irina, suffered for several years in a row from physical and psychological abuse by her husband, most often when he was drunk. Many times the woman turned to the police, but the case was either not initiated, limited to verbal warnings, or the investigation did not reach the court. There it usually ended with a reconciliation agreement. Levchuk claimed that she withdrew her complaints against her husband under pressure from the authorities, who did not want to investigate.

All cases of violence against a woman were documented by Rivne forensic experts, but neither fractures nor bruises convinced the police to start a serious investigation and open criminal proceedings. The couple divorced, but the husband did not pay child support, came home (and the divorced continued to live in the same apartment), again arranged a showdown. The maximum that he got from the police was an “administrative offence”, the case went to court and disappeared there.

Tired of filing complaints with the police to no avail, Levchuk filed a lawsuit with the ECHR, where she indicated that the Ukrainian courts formally approached to assess the authorities' response to systematic domestic violence.

The ECtHR awarded Levchuk compensation of 4,500 euros for Ukraine's violation of Article 8 of the Convention.

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