Today, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe. This Convention sets the highest international standards for the prevention of violence against women.

It’s a major human rights treaty, establishing comprehensive legal standards to ensure women’s rights to be free from violence.

It’s also a success story: as of today, 34 States ratified it. Among them, the Benelux countries have been working extensively to implement the Convention at national level.

Governments of States parties now have the obligation to apply a zero tolerance policy towards violence against women. This violence has therefore left the domestic sphere.

However, today the Istanbul Convention is at a crossroads:

Two months ago, one of its first state parties, Turkey, decided to withdraw from the convention, which we regret. What message do girls and women receive – especially at a time when the health crisis has increased domestic violence?

In Europe, we have seen an increase of 60% of emergency calls from women who report to domestic violence since the start of the pandemic and the confinement measures.

1 in 5 European women has been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by her intimate partner at least once in her lifetime.

And every day, 7 women still die under the beating of their partners.

We cannot accept that. We urgently need to reverse this trend.

We, the 3 Benelux-countries, commit to reinforce our response, increase our support to prevention and protection structures and ensure better law enforcement and judicial proceedings.

As leaders of the Benelux, we are determined to join the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and to use our voices to amplify the message of so many other women and men, girls and boys, promoting the Convention. We commit to lead by example by implementing it in an optimal way.

We invite other States to join us in our commitment to eliminate violence against women by ratifying the Convention – a fundamental tool to protect women.

And ultimately to save lives.

“On 11 May 2011 the Istanbul Convention was signed. Never before has a treaty been so ambitious on preventing & combating violence against women and domestic violence. Ten years later, the Benelux countries reaffirm their commitment to this cause.”