The Istanbul Convention: a big chance for women’s rights | ActionAid UK

With women’s rights under increasing threat around the world, this week we have a chance to stand up and protect them. A Bill to ratify the Istanbul Convention, a landmark piece of law on violence against women, goes to Parliament for a crucial vote on Friday – here’s how you can help make sure it passes.

ActionAid supporters speak up for the rights of women and girls at January's Women's March on London

Women’s rights under threat

Right now, hard-won progress on women’s rights is in danger. We’ve seen too many worrying examples in the last few months alone: from Russia decriminalising some forms of domestic violence, to the USA reinstating and expanding the ‘global gag rule’ on abortion, to the move in Bangladesh, where ActionAid works, to allow some girls under 18 to be married to preserve their families’ ‘honour’.

But these attacks have, rightly, acted as a wakeup call. In the past few months we’ve seen millions of women around the world come out into the streets to stand up and protect their rights. In India, thousands joined the #IWillGoOut marches across the country, protesting violence against women in public spaces. In America, millions turned out for the Women’s March on Washington, making it the biggest single-day protest in US history.

And in the UK, determined campaigning from grassroots women’s rights groups meant that a landmark Bill passed a first vote in the House of Commons in December: to commit to ratifying the Istanbul Convention on violence against women, making it legally binding in the UK.

What is the Istanbul Convention?

The Istanbul Convention is the strongest legal framework that exists to tackle violence against women and girls in Europe. It sets minimum standards for governments, ensuring support for survivors and requiring measures to tackle the causes of violence. 

The UK government signed the Convention in June 2012, but they have not yet ratified it – that means they’re not yet legally bound to follow it. The Bill going to a vote on Friday is a big chance to move this forward: it would require the government to ratify the Istanbul Convention, and make it law in the UK as soon as possible.

Ending violence against women and girls

ActionAid is committed to ending violence against women, a global epidemic that still affects one in three women worldwide. In 2012, a shocking 43,600 women across the world were killed by a partner or close family member. An ActionAid poll last year of the UK, India, Brazil and Thailand found that a huge majority of women had experienced violence or harassment on the streets of their cities, including three quarters of women in the UK.

Together with campaigners in 25 countries, we work to change the policies and attitudes that enable this violence and hold women back.

Ratifying the Istanbul Convention wouldn’t just show a national commitment to women’s rights in the UK. It would show international leadership on ending violence against women and girls which would have impact around the world.

Lots of other countries have already ratified the Convention, taking the next step to halt the global scandal of violence against women. But there’s a blank space where the UK should be. This week, we’re telling MPs loud and clear that the UK must step up.

Campaign to ratify the Istanbul Convention

In December, we asked our supporters to help get this Bill past the first stage, and we were overwhelmed by the response. Thousands emailed their MPs in just two days, helping get MPs on board to pass the Bill to the next stage.

That next stage is this Friday, and now we need 100 MPs to show up on the day and vote in favour – otherwise the Bill risks being talked out, a technique where a single MP can block a Bill they disagree with. With only a few days to go, we’re asking everyone who can to tweet their MPs to make sure they’re there. 

So please will you help make sure your MP’s going? Find their Twitter handle here to get started:

Tweet your MP now