Latvia still not ready to ratify Istanbul Convention

On November 28 the European Parliament adopted a resolution urging seven countries that have signed, but not ratified the Istanbul Convention to immediately ratify the convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, however in Latvia as of December 3 only two coalition forces support the convention, according to Latvian Radio.

National Alliance (NA) MP and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rihards Kols said that according to the NA, individual parts of the convention cannot be supported due to contradictory standards.

“The European Parliament can say lots of things. Nevertheless, we have sovereignty over international agreements and their implementation at the national level,” said Kols.

“If the convention ratification process comes before parliament we won't support it. If a Russian hits his Latvian wife it's violence, but if a Latvian hits his Russian wife then, as a minority, it's aggravated assault. That's one of the controversial sections in this document,” claims Kols. According to him, 80% of the Istanbul Convention is already incorporated in Latvian law.

The New Conservative Party agrees with the NA, and their parliamentary Faction Leader Juta Strīķe contends that it's an implementation problem instead of a regulatory one.

Istanbul Convention ratification is supported by the New Unity and Development/For! factions. Three years ago Former Welfare Minister Jānis Reirs signed the convention, and his party New Unity is ready to continue discussions. However Daniels  Pavļuts (Development/For!) admits that ratification is not expected due to lack of coalition support.

“I'm not convinced by the argument of Istanbul Convention ratification opponents that we're already doing everything. If we look at statistics we can see that the more we look at this issue, the more we see problems related to domestic violence,” said Pavļuts.

The Istanbul Convention was one of five issues where the coalition agreed to vote separately. Current Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča (KPV LV) is also against ratifying the convention, but for using current laws to combat violence against women and domestic violence.

On May 5, 2016 it appeared Latvia would be the only European Union member state likely to refuse to sign an international agreement designed to help protect women from domestic violence because to do so would make it hard to celebrate the achievements of freedom fighters - such is the opinion of a lawyer employed by the Justice Ministry to offer expert opinion on the subject.

The legal opinion provided by the Inga Kacevska firm of lawyers and signed by Baiba Rudevska in Strasbourg recommends that Latvia does not sign the Istanbul Convention against Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence because to do so would conflict with statements made in the preamble to the Latvian constitution.

As previously reported, on May 18, 2016 Latvia became the final European Union member state to sign up to the principles of the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe initiative that aims to reduce levels of violence against women.

Almost a year ago on January 22, 2018 LSM.lv reported that the convention is unlikely to be ratified soon, as the bill to ratify it is still stuck in the government. Critics of the convention say it includes terms that make them worried about protecting family values. 

As the convention had finally made it to cabinet agenda, religious leaders sent a repeat letter objecting against adopting it. The churches said the convention contradicts the Constitution and "makes it possible to impose on Latvia a project of changing society based on a gender ideology." 

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