Poland should reject treaty on violence against women: official

Zbigniew Ziobro signs documents after being designated as Minister of Justice, at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland

Poland should reject a European treaty to combat violence against women as some elements of it go against the country’s constitutional values, a government official said on Saturday.

Poland ratified the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention preventing violence against women in 2015 under the former, centrist government.

The ruling conservative nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which came to power five years ago pledging to defend traditional family values, have signalled that Warsaw may quit the treaty, saying the country’s own laws to protect women are more efficient.

Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro is expected to hold a press conference later on the convention, which states that traditions, culture or religion cannot be used as a justification for acts of violence against women.

It comes as calls to domestic violence hotlines in Europe rose as much as three-fifths as alcohol and drug abuse combine with close confinement in coronavirus lockdowns to fuel abuse of the most vulnerable, the World Health Organization said.

“The convention includes a dangerous ideological layer, which is contrary to Polish constitutional order,” said Janusz Kowalski, a deputy state assets minister and lawmaker from PiS junior coalition partner. He did not provide details.

Kowalski said that in the opinion of his party and the Justice Ministry, “the Istanbul Convention has to be denounced”.

His comments echo views expressed by other government officials earlier this month that Poland should take steps to quit the convention.

On Friday evening thousands of people, mostly women, protested in Warsaw and other cities in Poland against the government’s plans.

“The aim is to legalise domestic violence,” Magdalena Lempart, one of the protest organisers said on Friday at a march in Warsaw.

Some protesters carried banners saying “PiS is the women’s hell”, referring also to the party’s attempts from the past years to tighten already restrictive abortion rules, which the government gave up on after massive street protests.

Six EU countries have not ratified the convention, including Hungary and Bulgaria.

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