One Year Later: The Results and Prospects of the Ratification of the Istanbul Convention 

June, 2023 - Talina Kravtsova, Maryna Korniyenko


One year ago, on June 21, 2022, the President signed the law on the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the prevention of violence against women and domestic violence and the fight against these phenomena. The Convention entered into force for Ukraine on November 1, 2022. Asters  partner  Talina Kravtsova  and the company's lawyer  Maryna Kornienko analyzed what happened during this time and what steps Ukraine took to combat violence against women  .

On June 1, 2023, the EU Council approved the accession of the European Union to the convention. The Minister of Gender Equality and Deputy Minister of Employment of Sweden, Paulina Brandberg, said in this regard: "Violence against women is unacceptable and must be stopped. The Istanbul Convention is a guide and a catalyst for action. Today's decision to join the EU demonstrates our commitment to stepping up action against gender-based violence and supporting its victims."

The main purpose of the convention is the protection of women from all forms of violence, prevention, prosecution and elimination of violence against women and domestic violence, which is also committed against men and children. In addition, the convention emphasizes the need to take legislative measures to ensure that offenses are punished with effective, proportionate and convincing sanctions.

Ratification of the Convention was among the conditions for granting Ukraine the status of a candidate for membership of the European Union. In this regard, Ukraine undertook a year ago to create a legal framework for combating domestic violence and other types of violence, including psychological, physical and sexual violence, forced marriage, sexual harassment, etc. 

After a year from the date of ratification of the convention, it is possible to draw up interim results and analyze how its ratification affected the state of combating various forms of violence in Ukraine. 

5 new draft laws in this area

The ratification of the convention intensified the law-making activity, the purpose of which is the implementation of certain provisions of the agreement into the domestic legislation of Ukraine. Currently, the parliament is considering 5 draft laws, the provisions of which are aimed at developing a system for preventing and countering domestic violence and gender-based violence:

  1. Draft Law on Amendments to the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offenses in connection with the ratification of Convention  No. 8329  dated January 2, 2023. The purpose of the draft law is to bring the norms of the Labor Code of Ukraine and the Law of Ukraine "On Ensuring Equal Rights and Opportunities of Women and Men" into compliance with the provisions of the Convention and to improve the procedural procedure for handling cases of administrative offenses.
  2. Draft Law on Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) of Ukraine regarding conciliation agreements and criminal proceedings in the form of private prosecution in connection with the ratification of Convention No.  9093  of March 13, 2023. The bill is aimed at improving the system of protection against gender-based and domestic violence. In particular, on the implementation of Art. 55 of the convention, which provides for the obligation of the state to ensure that the investigation or prosecution of the offenses defined by the convention does not depend entirely on the report or complaint submitted by the injured person and that the proceedings can continue even if the injured person withdraws his statement or complaint.
  3. Draft Law on Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine on Improving the Procedure for Conducting Pretrial Investigations and Trials in Criminal Proceedings Regarding Crimes Related to Sexual Violence Committed in the Conditions of Armed Conflict No. 9351 dated June 5,  2023  . The purpose of the draft law is to improve the procedure for the investigation and trial of cases of sexual violence committed in the conditions of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, to ensure the confidentiality of the victims during the pre-trial investigation and trial of the specified category of cases.
  4. Draft Law on Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on Prevention of Violence and Prevention of Cruelty to Children  No. 6393-d  of June 9, 2023. The draft law provides for the introduction of measures to effectively protect children and other members of collectives from bullying (harassment), where children stay for the purpose of education, training, creativity, recovery, recreation, treatment, etc., as well as improvement of the current legislation on countering such violence as bullying.
  5. Related to the previous (No. 6393-d) project of the Law on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses on Administrative Offenses on Prevention and Counteraction of Violence Against Children  No. 9400  of June 19, 2023. The bill proposes to expand the scope of administrative responsibility for bullying, as well as provide for administrative responsibility for not reporting cases of child abuse, including bullying, domestic violence, and gender-based violence.

As of June 2023, the said draft laws are under consideration in the committees of the Verkhovna Rada. In general, we assess the legislative changes proposed by the draft laws as positive, aimed at the fulfillment of Ukraine's obligations and the real implementation of the provisions of the convention.

Voted changes to the legislation are stuck in cabinets and do not work 

Speaking about legislative changes in the context of establishing responsibility for sexual violence, we consider it necessary to mention the provisions of the draft Law on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine on the Implementation of International Criminal and Humanitarian Law No. 2689 of December 27,  2019  .

The law was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on December 27, 2019, but has not yet been signed by the President. Although the draft law was submitted to the parliament before the ratification of the convention, its provisions directly relate to its norms and are aimed at their implementation.

Thus, draft law No. 2689 proposes to significantly modernize the regulation of criminal responsibility for war crimes. In particular, to Art. 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine ("War crimes against the person"), it is proposed to include such crimes as rape, sexual exploitation, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization or any other forms of sexual violence.

The provisions of the draft law No. 2689 were positively evaluated by practicing lawyers and human rights organizations, who repeatedly emphasized that the law needs to be signed urgently, as it establishes proper and inevitable criminal responsibility for the commission of war crimes in Ukraine.

Summarizing what has been said, it is worth noting that the ratification of the convention first of all became an impetus for law-making and intensified the activities of human rights and public organizations that are engaged in the protection of the rights of women and other victims of violence. In this context, taking into account the grave consequences of the war and the significant number of victims of various forms of violence, it is necessary to emphasize the importance of prompt processing of draft laws and timely introduction of changes in national legislation.



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