Today, the government of Poland will begin the process of withdrawing itself from an international treaty meant to stop violence against women around the globe. The Istanbul Convention is a binding agreement that obliges signatories to prevent physical abuse of women in all forms, be it domestic violence or genital mutilation.
The treaty was born out of the efforts of the Council of Europe, a human rights body for the continent that is not connected to the European Union. Poland became a signatory to it in 2012 and ratified it through its Parliament in 2015. However, the Law and Justice Party (PiS), in the opposition at the time and now in power, had bitterly opposed it.
It was then that Zbigniew Ziobro, then a senior leader of his party and now the Justice Minister, described the treaty as "an invention, a feminist creation aimed at justifying gay ideology." He is the person who would set into the motion the process of taking his country out of it.
Core of the problem
The treaty does not mention same-sex marriage in its text but there is a feeling among conservative sections of European society that it implies support to homosexuality. The discontentment towards this Convention is not limited to Poland but is also present in other East European countries, namely Hungary and Slovakia.
Opposition to Poland's move
The current Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejcinovic Buric, criticized the decision of the Polish government but also expressed her desire for discussing the matter with them.
"Leaving the Istanbul Convention would be highly regrettable and a major step backwards in the protection of women against violence in Europe," Buric said. She added though, probably still hoping for a change of mind for Poland's government, "If there are any misconceptions or misunderstandings about the convention, we are ready to clarify them in a constructive dialogue."
On Sunday, the European Union also expressed its disapproval of the forthcoming move of the Polish government. While the EU has not itself, as of now, ratified the treaty, it is working to bring that about. Several members of the European Parliament also lambasted the Polish government for this initiative.
However, with the re-election of Andrezj Duda in the recent Presidential elections, the hand of PiS seems strengthened and they are likely to move forward. Duda himself has been an opponent of what he has described as the 'LGBT ideology.'
Protests have taken place in Poland against the government's move with two thousand people taking out a march in the capital Warsaw on Friday. However, the protestors may represent only one part of the country's population, one that was in the losing side in the Presidential election.