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Council of Europe logoYou might think – and I would agree with you – that the phrase “violence against women is understood as a violation of human rights” is not only glaringly obvious but also something that any government would accept as a valid part of any international pact trying to combat violence against women (VAW) and domestic violence.

It’s one line in a draft convention aimed at combating violence which has taken 47 member states nearly two years to negotiate and was about to be signed off.

And yet, according to a report in The Times today (link here, payment required for access):

British officials have astounded members of the Council of Europe with a last-minute intervention arguing that violence against women is not a violation of human rights.

Documents leaked to The Times reveal that Britain wants the suggestion taken out of the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence – and replaced with a weaker phrase. They also want to alter the document so that it applies only in peace time – and not during armed conflict.

[…] Instead, it wants “violence against women constitutes a serious obstacle for women’s enjoyment of human rights”.

Needless to say, the reported attempt to water down the pact has provoked an outcry from many quarters. José Mendes Bota, president of the Committee on Equal Opportunities at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly is quoted as saying that any attempt to block approval of the Convention would be a “political crime“.

Kate Allen (director of Amnesty International) has called the attempt a “retrograde step” whilst Marai Larasi (Co-Chair of the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition) said:

We are stunned that the Government is now seeking to weaken the rights of women across Europe, while saying it wants to strengthen them at home.

The last part of Ms Larasi’s quote is a reference to the launch by the Home Secretary – also on International Women’s Day – of plans to tackle violence against women and girls, outlined in its document Call to end violence against women and girls: action plan.

If the report in The Times is accurate, then I would have to say that the hypocrisy of the government leaves me speechless with anger.