The Republic of Moldova has ratified the Istanbul Convention through Law No 144 of 14th of October 2021, making it the 35th state to do so. The Istanbul Convention is a recent legal development in Europe aimed at protecting female victims of violence. Article 1 of the Convention reflects its goals, which include the elimination of violence against women, prevention, protection, and prosecution of violence, as well as the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, promotion of substantive equality, and female empowerment. The Convention provides for substantive and procedural legislative changes, as well as a comprehensive set of measures to be implemented by the contracting parties’ governments.

The Convention defines “violence against women” as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women. It encompasses all acts of gender-based violence that result in or are likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological, or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, regardless of whether they occur in public or private life. “Domestic violence” is defined as all acts of physical, sexual, psychological, or economic violence that occur within the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, regardless of whether the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim.

It is noteworthy that the Convention highlights the underlying power dynamics between genders, particularly women and men, as the default gender categories, and focuses on the role of women as victims in this context. Violence against women is widely portrayed as a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, an obstacle to achieving equality, and most importantly, a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination.

A previous study by WatchDog.MD monitoring the implementation of the Convention has identified three key areas in which the government fell short in fulfilling its international obligations stemming from the treaty. First, the study highlighted the lack of specialised support services for victims of sexual violence. Second, the virtual lack of training of a wide range of professionals offering support to the victims has been identified as a great vulnerability in effectively providing said services. Finally, the study addressed the importance of allocating further resources toward activities aimed at empowering women and female victims of violence as an important tool in combating gender-based violence by enabling women to challenge existing damaging beliefs on gender norms and break the abuse cycle.

The assessment of the Ministry of Labour, Health, and Social Protection’s report on the implementation of the Istanbul Convention indicates a lack of progress in the three key areas identified by WatchDog.MD’s previous study. The absence of specialised support services for victims of sexual violence, inadequate training of professionals providing victim support services, and insufficient resources allocated to empower women and female victims of violence remain great vulnerabilities in the effective implementation of the Convention’s goals. The findings underscore the need for more significant efforts by the government to fulfil its international obligations and provide adequate support to victims of gender-based violence. Addressing these critical areas will require a concerted effort by policymakers, stakeholders, and civil society to strengthen the implementation of the Convention, protect women’s rights and ensure gender equality.

Author: Otilia VATAVU

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