The United Nations defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."
The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, also known as the Istanbul Convention, is the first legally binding international instrument on this issue. It establishes a comprehensive framework of measures for preventing such violence, supporting victims and punishing perpetrators.
MEPs have voted during May 2023 plenary to approve the European Union’s accession to the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, concluding Parliament’s role in the process. Six years after the EU signed the Istanbul Convention - it has still not been ratified because of the refusal of a few member states, despite Parliament’s multiple calls to this end.
However, the EU Court of Justice’s opinion of 6 October 2021 confirmed that the European Union can ratify the Istanbul Convention without having the agreement of all member states. The Court found that the appropriate scope for the EU’s accession is asylum, judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and obligations of the EU institutions and public administration.
The EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention does not exempt member states from ratifying it themselves, MEPs have repeatedly said, urging the remaining six countries - Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia - to ratify the Convention without delay, so that it can protect women to the full extent of the Convention’s intended scope