PM wants Constitutional Tribunal to examine Istanbul Convention

Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday he had decided to ask the Constitutional Tribunal (TK) whether the Istanbul Convention stands in line with the Polish Constitution.

Mr Morawiecki noted that there are many serious accusations in the public discussion against the Istanbul Convention, namely that it violates Poland's legal order, has an ideological basis, incorrectly defines the real sources of violence against women and does not provide effective tools in the fight against domestic violence.

He noted, "these are very serious doubts... that cannot be passed over."

The PM added that the Polish government partially shares these concerns. It also has a right to consider the document as inconsistent with the constitution in terms of, the impartiality of the state regarding world views and the right of parents to raise children in accordance with their conscience.

"That is why I decided to submit my application to the Constitutional Tribunal to verify the compliance of the Istanbul Convention with the [Polish] constitution," Mr Morawiecki said.

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro asked the Labour Ministry to begin the process of withdrawing Poland from the treaty, arguing it imposes certain ideologies on the country.

Doubts if the convention is beneficial for Poland

The PM’s decision comes in the wake of “Solidarity Poland”, part of the ruling United Right coalition, arguing for Poland to ditch its participation in the Istanbul Convention on violence against women over an argument that Poland’s legislation on domestic violence is ahead of most countries and that the provisions of the Convention are hostile to the Church and the traditional family as well as ideological in defining gender as a cultural and social rather than biological phenomena.

In 2012, the Civic Platform (PO) led government signed the Council of Europe’s treaty to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence. It was later ratified by President Bronisław Komorowski in 2015. Poland has yet to complete the treaty’s implementation. Now the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) government is considering whether it may withdraw from the convention altogether.

The contents of the Istanbul Convention have aroused similar concerns in other parts of Central and Eastern Europe. Among the countries that have not ratified the treaty are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Ukraine (as well as the United Kingdom). The first country to ratify the treaty, rather surprisingly in respect of its recent record on human rights was Turkey.

Whether completing the endorsement of the treaty is purposeful and beneficial to Poland remains debatable.

The levels of domestic violence recorded in Poland are lower, according to OECD statistics, than in countries which have implemented the convention. Some, however, dispute these statistics arguing that families in Poland are still less willing to report instances of violence against women.

The ruling party recently passed legislation allowing perpetrators of domestic violence to be immediately separated from their victims. Polish legislation in this regard is among the most restrictive of domestic violence in the world.

To learn more on the issue, read PolandIN’s analysis here.