Latvia has introduced most of Istanbul Convention norms

Take note – story published 6 years ago

Latvia has implemented 80% of the recommendations set forth in the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe initiative that aims to reduce levels of violence against women, reported LTV's De Facto February 11.

Latvia signed the Istanbul Convention in 2016 but is unlikely to ratify it in parliament any time soon, despite the fact many other European nations have already done so.

Hopes for coalition-wide support have waned after the Greens and Farmers Union claimed a religious leader persuaded the party to abandon support.

In addition the self-styled "social democratic" Harmony party in opposition seems to be unique among European social democrats in voicing strong opposition to ratification. 

Nevertheless, since 2011 when the Council of Europe approved the convention, it has served as a roadmap, and numerous laws recommended by the convention have in fact already been introduced into Latvia's legislation.

The Welfare Ministry told LTV that among the introduced laws was one authorizing police to issue temporary restraining orders against domicile owners, meaning violent people could be barred from their own property.

It was introduced in 2014, and while it was used 91 times that year, 509 cases were recorded in the first nine months of 2017. 

"Before the convention, in Latvia and elsewhere the reaction came only with the consequences ("come for help, but only after you're dead"). Now the approach has changed radically. We react before something has happened and do what we can to protect the victim from repeated violence," ministry expert Viktorija Boļšakova told LTV. 

Other things that were introduced are publicly funded rehabilitation for grown-up victims of domestic violence, police training over domestic violence; stalking and threatening was made illegal; there were changes to the definition of rape; and the term 'psychological violence' was also introduced. 

The recommendations yet to be introduced included a round-the-clock crisis hotline; immediate access to medical expertise; and regular information campaigns. Implementation is expected upon ratification.

The right-of-center National Alliance party within the ruling three-party coalition, and the Justice Ministry which it heads, have been voicing fierce opposition to the convention for several years. 

A total 46 countries have signed the convention and 28 have ratified it.

Previously the Justice Ministry commissioned a lawyer to express her views on the convention, and, inter alia, the lawyer came out with the remarkable claim that the agreement designed to help protect women from domestic violence would make it hard to celebrate the achievements of freedom fighters.

Latvia has a large-scale domestic violence problem. In 2014 EU-wide research said that 39% of women in Latvia have faced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or a non-partner since the age of 15, against the EU average of 33%. 

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