Will Poland withdraw from Istanbul Convention?

Zbigniew Ziobro, the Polish minister of justice and founder of the PiS spin-off Solidarna Polska, wants his country to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention. Among other things, the Convention obliges signatory states to classify any form of violence against women and girls and all forms of domestic violence as a crime. Commentators discuss why the Convention is suddenly under scrutiny, and not just in Poland.

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Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /


Polish victims of violence need the protection of the guarantees enshrined in the Convention, Gazeta Wyborcza notes:

“The Convention provides extensive support to victims of violence, which is only available to a limited extent in some municipalities. Article 20 guarantees assistance to victims in overcoming the repercussions of violence, including legal and psychological counselling, financial support, housing benefits, training and assistance in finding a job. Article 25 calls for centres for victims of sexual violence that offer medical and forensic examinations, post-traumatic support and counselling. And Article 26 guarantees the necessary support for children who have witnessed any form of violence.”

Star (TR) /

The problem is the means to the end

Turkey's ruling AK party is also discussing withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention. The pro- government daily Star finds the gender concept in the convention particularly disturbing:

“It is a text based on the ideological concepts of feminism and the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) movement. Under the cover of a mask imposed on the whole world called 'Combating violence against women', it aims to change people's existence and understanding of men and women. Based on the idea that free individuals can shape their bodies at will and do as they please with them, the concept of gender has become nothing more than a stereotypical prejudice! ... Violence against women should be severely punished, but this cannot be achieved by playing with female and male genes.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Crossing swords with Western values

For Poland, women's rights are an ideological issue, NRC Handelsblad comments:

“In Central Europe, discussion of the Women's Convention has been taken up by nationalist politicians and religious interest groups who openly campaign against Western ideas about sexuality. ... The text says nothing about transsexuality or homosexuality, but their social legitimation has been successfully used as an argument against the treaty. .... [Polish President Andrzej] Duda promised in the election campaign to 'protect children from the LGBT ideology', and announced that non-heterosexual couples would be banned from adopting. The withdrawal from the Women's Convention is just collateral damage in the political agenda promoting 'traditional values'.”

Mozgástér (HU) /

Fewer conventions, more nation state

International law should be confined to regulating international relations, political scientist Zoltán Kiszelly argues in the pro-government blog Mozgástér:

“The Polish government's intention of renouncing the Istanbul Convention can be seen as part of an important trend of bringing international law back to its original purpose. Because while it has recently been degraded to an instrument of political soft power and a playground for global NGOs, its real purpose is to regulate relations between states. ... The Polish government's plan sends an encouraging signal. ... The pandemic has shown that it is the nation state that still best protects its citizens. We should be strengthening it, not weakening it.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

The Convention is ideological

It's unfair to equate opponents of the Istanbul Convention with women beaters, Rzeczpospolita stresses:

“The convention is based on an ideology that is foreign to a large part of Polish society. It's not enough to look for the causes of violence against women in religion, tradition and the division of social roles. All you have to do is look at the data put out by the EU for years. Statistically, secular countries have a bigger problem with violence against women than traditionally Catholic ones. ... However, if Zbigniew Ziobro insists on putting the topic on the agenda, he should offer a solution that strengthens the protection of women. Combatting violence should be the responsibility of the state and the municipalities, not of non-governmental organisations.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Only logical

Commenting in his blog with Adevărul, Cristian Unteanu says he's not surprised by the announcement:

“The move fits in perfectly with the logic of the conservative PiS ruling party, which had always opposed ratification of the convention, claiming it was an attempt to promote 'gender ideology' because its provisions refer to 'social reality' rather than 'biological identity'. What's more: in an official statement Ziobro had called the European convention a 'feminist invention' used to justify 'a gay ideology' ... You don't need a convention to know that you shouldn't beat a woman, in his view: for that, all you need do is read the Gospel.”

Polityka (PL) /

PiS won't risk further harming its reputation

It is by no means certain that the PiS will support the initiative, Polityka puts in:

“It seems that Zbigniew Ziobro and his party members are the only ones who are seriously interested in this matter. ... A government restructuring was announced that could cost Solidarna Polska a ministerial seat. The question is therefore whether the PiS will give its coalition partner a consolation prize by supporting Poland's withdrawal from the Convention. Or maybe it's the other way around, and Ziobro is blackmailing the PiS in the sense that if he loses his job he'll get the Church and the influential Catholic broadcaster Radio Maryja behind him to campaign against the Convention. In any case, the PiS already has enough diplomatic problems abroad to want to take the additional risk of withdrawing from a treaty that protects women from violence.”