The Istanbul Convention has become a certain kind of political test in the Czech Republic as evidenced by the government including a discussion on this matter on its agenda last week only to remove it quickly by Monday.
While it remains unknown why the government decided to scratch the subject from the program of negotiations, one thing is clear: Supporters of the Convention often use arguments that come across as stupid, internally contradictory and desperate.
On one hand, the European Parliament is urging its ratification while on the other hand, it has become a trending topic on social networks from those against it. In recent months, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey have backed away from it, which is seen as an ominous sign and proof of what the opponents of the agreement look like.
At first glance, it might seem that the Czech supporters of the Convention have no lack of energy and conviction. But there are reasons to believe that a more intelligent person defending it must experience unpleasant moments. He might suspect that regardless of whether he eventually achieves a tactical loss or a victory in the form of ratification, it will be a loss from a strategic point of view anyway. And for what?
For example, how can it be argued that the Convention will not have any radical effects but is fundamentally necessary at the same time? Virtually all undesirable activities identified by the Convention are already punished by Czech criminal law. Or, they are taken into account by some other valid international pact, regarding, for example, migration. If the Convention does not bring anything groundbreaking, then why is it so necessary?
However, the argument of the Council of Europe itself, which was published also in Czech this year, contains a section entitled “Breakthrough Aspects of the Convention.” It includes the claim that “this is the first international treaty containing a definition of gender. This means that for women and men, not only the biological distinction applies, but there is also a socially constructed category of gender that determines a specific role and behavior for women and men.“
So when opponents of the treaty claim that the Convention introduces a “gender ideology,” and supporters ridicule them for it, they look like fools. The Council of Europe essentially puts the argument to rest.
This is because the proponents of the Convention have chosen a strategy: To appeal to the progressives, meaning to those for whom the “breakthrough aspects” are the most important part, they want to discredit the opposition by simply calling it reactionary and primitive.
Czech MP Tomáš Martínek from the Pirate Party demonstrated an “epidemiological” theory of struggle when he wrote on Twitter: “Turkey is considering withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention against violence on women and men because European countries such as Hungary are unable to ratify it. Refusing to accept the Istanbul Convention thus paradoxically leads to the spread of Orthodox Islam in the world…”
This requires many assumptions. In particular, that radical Islam in Islamic countries is spread through international conventions and the adoption of the Istanbul Convention would slow down this spread. Another would be that Turkish President Erdoğan has no ideas of his own and never dares to act unilaterally at home or internationally, but is instea waiting for what Hungary will do.
If you believe this, you can believe anything.
A question of domestic violence
Another funny argument is that populist governments are now rejecting the Convention despite an increase in domestic violence cases during the coronavirus pandemic. But there are a lot of other things going on during the pandemic.
The focus on domestic violence has its origins mainly in the fact that there is a group of people who have the general file “Current phenomenon X affects women the most” in their computers and their job is to look out for phenomena that can be added to the headline and then sent as a new press release to the world. They have had some work to do given the fact that the disease affects men more.
Moreover, the Convention has been in preparation since 2011. Did the crucial argument for its adoption only come up now, nine years later?
The Convention was criticized back in 2015 when it was first discussed by the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office and the Supreme Court. But the gender ideology included in the Convention has now moved from a sphere where only professional activists and ideologues were interested in it to the field of interest of ordinary people.
Because when something happens to probably the most famous living writer in the world, it can no longer be driven back into the Facebook groups and chain e-mails. The aggressive criticism of J. K. Rowling that was sparked by her refusal to accept the “socially constructed category of gender” opened the eyes of many people.
But in the end, it is not necessary to go about this ideologically. It is sufficient to say that no further international convention on human rights is needed. The burden of showing its necessity should be on those who promote it, not on opponents.
Title image: Gender roles (Pixabay)