The Republic of Macedonia has ratified the Istanbul Convention, becoming the 29th country to do so, the Council of Europe said.
The former Yugoslav republic’s permanent representative to the Council of Europe, Petar Pop Arsov, handed in the instrument of ratification at a ceremony attended by the COE’s deputy secretary general, Gabriella Bataini-Dragoni, on March 23.
The Convention, the full name of which is the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, will enter into force in the Republic of Macedonia on July 1 2018.
The depositing of the Macedonian ratification of the Convention came on the eve of protests in Croatia, with thousands of people turning out in central Zagreb to show their rejection of the Convention, claiming that it would legitimise same-sex marriage as well as conferring more rights on transgender people.
The Croatian protests were backed by the Roman Catholic church in that country, while opponents of the Convention also want the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković because of his support for it.
The Istanbul Convention has been the target of a negative campaign by illiberal forces in various European countries, who focus on its supposed promotion of a “third gender” and gender education in schools.
On March 8, the COE’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks said in a video message that politicians and opinion makers should promote an honest and well-informed public debate about the Convention.
“Combating violence against women and domestic violence must be a priority for us all. The Istanbul Convention is a modern and unique tool designed to protect women’s rights and no excuse should obstruct its ratification and implementation,” he said.
Among the Central and Eastern European countries to reject the country recently was Slovakia. On February 22, Robert Fico – then in his final weeks as Slovakia’s Prime Minister – said that the Convention should not be ratified because he considered it at odds with the country’s constitutional definition of marriage as a heterosexual union.
In Bulgaria, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s Cabinet approved the Convention in January 2018 and called on the National Assembly to adopt it. However, faced with opposition by traditionalist forces including the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and a rebellion by Borissov’s far-right minority partner in government, the United Patriots, this approval was withdrawn. The active campaign in Bulgaria in Convention has had a considerable impact, with some opinion polls showing more than 70 per cent of Bulgarians opposed to ratification of the Convention.
Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court decided on March 20 that the request lodged by 75 MPs from GERB, Borissov’s centre-right party that is the senior partner in the country’s ruling coalition, for a ruling on whether provisions from the Istanbul Convention on domestic violence were in conflict with the Bulgarian constitution, was admissible.
In withdrawing approval of the Convention, Borissov cited the pending Constitutional Court case, though the political reality is that attempting to get Parliament to ratify the Convention could risk the United Patriots withdrawing their support for him, which would thus bring down the third Borissov government.
(Photo of Macedonia’s permanent representative to the COE, Petar Pop Arsov, and COE deputy secretary general Gabriella Bataini-Dragoni: coe.int)