Amnesty International Fights Proposed Changes to European Violence Against Women Treaty

Amnesty International has raised “profound” concerns over proposed amendments to a new European treaty designed to prevent violence against women, saying that the proposed changes, which include British attempts at excluding women in armed conflict from the scope of the treaty and Russian attempts at nixing protections for lesbian, bisexual and trans women, risk unraveling the impact of the treaty when it is so close to being adopted.

From the Amnesty International press release (via ILGA-Europe):

Amnesty International is profoundly concerned that last minute efforts are being made to unravel key provisions in the Council of Europe’s Draft Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (1). Such moves are particularly shocking, given that these proposals come very shortly before final adoption of the treaty, and after two years of detailed negotiation.


The recent amendments, which would undermine the effectiveness of the draft treaty, include the following:

A United Kingdom proposal to exclude violence against women in armed conflict from the scope of the treaty. There have been many conflicts in Europe in recent years where serious acts of violence against women have been committed, most notably in the former Yugoslavia. Amnesty International believes that it would be unconscionable if this new treaty failed to address violence against women in conflict situations. The current text of the draft treaty would support existing provisions of international humanitarian law by recognizing explicitly the right of women and girls affected by armed conflict to reparation and services.

The Russian Federation has proposed excluding violence against lesbian, bisexual and transgender women from the scope of this treaty, as it seeks to delete sexual orientation and gender identity as impermissible grounds of discrimination

Amnesty International joins the European Region of the International, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association in condemning this attempt to remove sexual orientation and gender identity as impermissible grounds of discrimination in the text of the treaty: there is overwhelming evidence that lesbian, bisexual and transgender women are particularly targeted for violence.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe itself has stated that “;lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons have been for centuries and are still subjected to homophobia, transphobia and other forms of intolerance and discrimination even within their family.”

Amnesty International considers that it is vitally important to maintain sexual orientation and gender identity as impermissible grounds of discrimination in the text of the treaty, to ensure that effective action taken to prevent violence against lesbian and transgender women and provide them with effective remedies where they are subjected to violence.

In respect of the criminal definition of sexual harassment, the UK has proposed that in order to be criminalized, conduct has both the purpose and effect of harassing, rather than the purpose or effect as currently stated in the draft Convention.

· The relevant article in the draft treaty was carefully written to address the fact that many perpetrators of sexual harassment seek to justify their actions by claiming that their behaviour was “harmless fun” or “just a normal part of life” and not intended to harass. By suggesting that conduct must have both the purpose and the effect of harassing, the change that the UK proposes could render an important provision on sexual harassment almost worthless.

A number of other amendments have also been proposed – the majority of which, if implemented, would undermine existing international law. Amnesty International believes that it is unconscionable to seek to undermine this treaty at the very final stages.

The treaty, if adopted without the proposed amendments, would establish a specific framework designed to allow associated governments a robust and solid plan to prevent, investigate and prosecute violence against women in the EU.

It would also allow EU nations an oversight framework and would provide models through which legislation and definitions concerning rape and all forms of sexual violence, domestic abuse and harassment toward women could be worked on, as well as providing a template for risk assessment, protection measures and services for women affected by violence.

The proposed amendments could significantly undermine the “vital contribution” this treaty would have in ensuring all women in the EU live their lives free of violence, says Amnesty International.

As such, Amnesty International is urging all states in the Council of Europe to oppose changes to the draft treaty and asks that all states proposing the amendments withdraw them immediately.

For more on this and background on Amnesty International’s work on this treaty, please click here.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to César Augusto Serna Sz.


Shirley Marsh
Shirley Marsh7 years ago

Ooops! Sorry folks; thought my first comment had got lost in a computer glitch, so I wrote it all again! Apologies.

Shirley Marsh
Shirley Marsh7 years ago

Thanks Janine. I cannot believe the UK is party to such a travesty of human rights. Women in combat are obviously as susceptible to wounding or death by the hardware of war as are their male counterparts, and accept this when they choose their profession. However, the 'weapon' of rape should never be used against any human being, male or female. It is an unconscionable and disgusting act of cowardice that is all about power and punishment and nothing to do with sexual gratification.

As for the homosexual/trans gender issue - extraordinary! The homophobes are certainly coming out of the woodwork.

Thank goodness for Amnesty International and their tireless work for the rights of humanity as a whole. They should have the support of all of us; they certainly have mine. But WHERE IS THE PETITION? Or have I missed something? May I suggest that if there isn't one, that one be started immediately? This is truly unconscionable!

Shirley Marsh
Shirley Marsh7 years ago

Thanks Janine; this is outrageous! Thank goodness for Amnesty International; everyone should support their amazing efforts for the benefit of humanity as a whole! But where's the petition - or have I missed something?

Women in combat are susceptible to the same violence as men, i.e. death, or being wounded by the hardware of war, and they accept these possibilities when they choose their profession. However, being raped is altogether another thing. Rape is a weapon (and that is exactly what it is, nothing to do with sexual gratification) that should never be used. That is an unconscionable act against any human being, male or female.

These amendments skew the spirit of the treaty completely, and would just muddy up an otherwise clear objective. I cannot believe the UK is party to a movement that would virtually render the treaty worthless; a toothless tiger in fact! As for the homosexual/trans gender issue; the homophobes are certainly crawling out from the woodwork!

If there is no currently no petition for us to sign; may I suggest that one is started immediately!

Janine H.
Janine H7 years ago

This is so terrible. Always when i hear about terrible things it makes med sad, and i cannot understand how someone could do something terrible - hurt, rape or kill a person or animal. When i was a child this also happened to me... and surviving this is more terrible than not (parents and other may think different, but a victim?), living with all this pain... living with guilty feelings... full with hate for the own self
No one can understand, because most people cannot imagine this, cannot imagine how much it change. Some of them think, that this would not be so terrible, because all would make some sexual experiences, and so it would not matter if there were some without own interest or wish. This cruel and superficial society makes me sick.

I know that it is not good to wish someone who does terrible things something as a punishment. But when i hear about violent people then i think why are they so "afraid" to go to someone equal and get some hits for their selves. This is a perversion, to think being more a man when beating a woman or a girl. This men are a shame for all normal men.

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

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Jennifer W.
Jennifer W8 years ago

The UK wants to exclude rape in war? Surely not! As for sexual harrassment cases- there could be room for modification due to too many exaggerations and false claims being made for financial gains or revenge. There should be no easing on rape, especially during armed conflict and where very young children are involved.

April Thompson
April Thompson8 years ago

Thank you!

Doug D.
Douglas D8 years ago

Thank you Amnesty Int'l for all your hard work and oversight!

Linda Robinson
Past Member 8 years ago

Violence against women as an act of war is already under-prosecuted. The United Nations can't get it together to condemn rape as an act of genocide, thanks to Russia and China, the dynamic duo of blocking women issues around the world. How long will Europe be bullied into watering down human rights?

Jane R.
Jane R8 years ago


Eileen Mary P.
Eileen P8 years ago

Violence against any living thing serves to perpetuate itself. At best it is a temporary form of protection against physical threat from another.
In my imaginary world in my head there is no violence, just discussion, reason and compromise. If only I could make it real.