Julie joined the European Professionals Network, below is a summary of her inputs. She continues to be a strong voice for gender equality and wants to lead the way in encouraging the UK to adopt the Istanbul Convention.
‘Julie Ward, MEP with the Socialists & Democrats Group, initiated the debate by underlying the reasons why the Istanbul Convention’s implementation process is being difficult and why some member states, including the UK, have not yet ratified it. The implementation of the Convention requires the states to invest money and resources by providing support and protection services to victims, effectively prosecuting and rehabilitating perpetrators, giving victims the right to legal assistance and free legal aid, criminalising all forms of violence against women, including stalking, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced abortion and sterilisation, and finally providing healthy relationships education. However, in an era of austerity, women’s rights and gender equality often go low down in the list of priorities. In fact, UK’s conservative government cut legal aid to women and funds for shelters for abused victims as part of the austerity measures.
Ms Ward noted that the most important dimension of the Convention is its recognition of gender-based violence as a result of gender inequality, and she stressed the importance of sex and relationships education by referring to her successful report Empowering girls through education in the EU. She invited all participants to be braver, to speak the truth and do the things that they know are right, because the EU offers the chance to pass progressive reports and amendments.
She also took the time to address the abortion issue, being the pro-life lobby getting stronger and stronger in countries like Poland and Hungary. One of the main opponents to the Istanbul Convention is Bulgaria, currently holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which stated that it will not be ratifying it, as it believes the Convention spreads false statements about gender and hidden LGBTIQ+ agenda. Ms Ward specified that by no means does the Convention have a hidden agenda advocating the recognition of a third sex or even for the legalisation of gay marriage, but even if it were true, it would not be a reason not to ratify it. She added that it is actually very problematic that the Convention does not address specific GBV experienced by the LGBTIQ+ people, and in particular trans people, and she reminded the importance of being inclusive and taking experiences of trans and non-binary people into account.
She concluded by reminding that if governments are not ratifying the Convention, not providing the resources to implement it properly and not monitoring it, the cost will be women’s lives.’