Context: In December 2008, the Council of Europe set up an expert committee, the Ad Hoc Committee for preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (CAHVIO). In December 2010, it finalized the draft text of the Istanbul Convention which was later adopted by the Committee of Ministers and opened for signature in Istanbul on 11 May 2011.

Since than many countries have signed, ratified, and put into force the articles of the Convention. Yet today (8, Mars, 2018) this article appeared in the EU Observer. The author (Bridget O'Loughlin) mentions:

A common misconception is that the Istanbul Convention obliges states to have lessons at schools about sexual orientation. It does not.

Some claim that our convention promotes same-sex marriage, but it makes no reference to the legal recognition of such marriage. Certainly the Council of Europe supports LGBTI rights. The convention opposes any form of discrimination. But the subject of same-sex marriage is outside the legal scope of the Istanbul Convention.

Nor does the convention oblige states to legally recognize a third sex under domestic law, as some people mistakenly believe.


Yet another misconception is that the convention calls for a new "refugee status" for transgender or intersex persons, as has been sometimes erroneously reported. This is not true, either.

Further in the same article there is a link to the list of signatories. At first I was expecting to see countries where importance of religion is higher to be less "whiling" to ratify the agreement. In many ways this seems to be true (see for example: Treaty opposing violence against women will lead to 'moral decay', Bulgarian church says). But I fail to grasp why nations such as Ireland, Iceland, UK, Luxembourg, Greece, Croatia, among others, have not ratified the agreement. Notice that ratification is different from entry into force. I can understand that some nations might need more time to reform, but why not ratify it?

Question: Since the adoption of the Istanbul Convention principles was made of three stages (signature, ratification, entry into force), why haven't some nations reached the second step 7 years after the opening for signatures (ratification: which I interpret as a legal commitment to reform and implement)?

Note: I do not expect to have a single reason to explain the "reluctance" for all of these nations. I will be more than happy to upvote any answer that explains the issue for any single nation (sources are important: demographics, newspaper articles, census, etc.) or accept another that covers a representative sample of nations that could explain what is going on in here.

  • 1
    Didn't Ireland sign it? eng.ombudsmanrf.org/events/news/world_news/view/… Mar 8, 2018 at 12:50
  • @Trilarion all of the countries I gave as example signed the treaty. They just didn't ratify it (or put into force; i.e. make it legally binding). Ireland signed in 2015, 4 years after the opening. Here is the list for all signatories and their current state of affairs..
    – armatita
    Mar 8, 2018 at 12:54
  • Perhaps they were looking for it in Constantinople.
    – user2565
    Mar 8, 2018 at 15:57
  • I wouldn't consider that religion is less important in Ireland or Greece that in Bulgaria...
    – Evargalo
    Jun 1, 2018 at 13:09
  • 1
    @Evargalo My example of Bulgaria was just meant to illustrate that religious institutions often have significant leverage over a country. In no way I was trying to compare any of them. The linked the "importance of religion" expression was meant to create a baseline. Just as an example that table shows Portugal as one nations with highest percentages of religious interest. Yet that same country has legalized abortion, same-sex marriage, same-sex co-adoption, therapeutic marijuana, decriminalized drug consumption, and so on and so forth (this last week euthanasia was almost approved).
    – armatita
    Jun 1, 2018 at 13:24

3 Answers 3


The current UK government's official position is given in a report published in November 2017:

The Government takes its international commitments very seriously and will only take steps toward ratification when we are absolutely satisfied that the UK complies with all articles of the Convention. Before the UK can be considered to be fully compliant, there remain outstanding issues which will need to be addressed, including in relation to extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) – that is, the ability to prosecute certain offences that occur outside our national borders.

Whether it's better for a government to ratify a treaty without the legal power to comply with it, or to fail to ratify the treaty while waiting for the required legislation to be passed at multiple levels of government, and at a time when a certain other issue is taking up much of parliament's time is a difficult question. This also doesn't address why previous governments didn't make more effort to be compliant since the UK became a signatory in 2012.


NOTE: see below for the disclosure of sources for each of the countries considered in this answer (Lithuania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Ireland, United Kingdom, Croatia, Greece, Luxembourg, Iceland, Czech Republic).


  • United Kingdom and Ireland are waiting for the full implementation of legislation prior to ratification.

  • Luxembourg, Greece, and Czech Republic are expected to ratify the convention this year.

  • Iceland apparently seems already in the process of ratification (the recommendation was already accepted in 2017).

  • Lithuania, Bulgaria, Latvia, and Croatia have objections towards the concept of gender of the convention.


The Lithuanian Social Security and Labor Ministry proposes to postpone the ratification of the so-called Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women until a compromise is reached on the concept of gender... (source 2-Mars-2018 ).


Bulgaria’s ruling party delayed a vote on Thursday to ratify a European treaty designed to combat violence against women in the face of opposition from religious and political groups who said its provisions on gender could promote moral decay. (source, 25-Jan-2018)


The Latvian Justice Ministry is opposing ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence or the so-called Istanbul Convention because Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnacs (National Alliance) has objections to the concept of social gender used in the convention. (source, 28-Jan-2018)


The actions necessary to ratify the Istanbul Convention are contained in the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021, published in January, 2016. (...) When the required legislative actions are implemented, Ireland will be in a position to ratify the Convention. (source, 22-Feb-2018)

United Kingdom

CREDIT: @origimbo

The Government takes its international commitments very seriously and will only take steps toward ratification when we are absolutely satisfied that the UK complies with all articles of the Convention. (source, Nov-2017)


... It turned out that the word "gender" would become the main issue of contention for those who are against ratification. (...) Prime Minister Plenkovic announced in 2017 that the convention would be ratified by the end of the year, but that turned out to be just another unfulfilled promise. As usual, Plenkovic probably wants to do the right thing but is afraid of the right wing of the party he only nominally leads and therefore hesitates with sending the proposal to parliament. (source, 21-Jan-2018)

Greece, Luxembourg, Iceland, Czech Republic

I was unable to find direct verification for some other nations but the following sources seem to confirm that Greece, Luxembourg and Czech Republic are expected to ratify it this summer. (source 1, source 2 ). Further this document seems to support that Iceland did indeed accept the recommendation for ratification last year so it's possible they are currently in the process of ratification.


How about Poland and Hungry? The situation there is the most interesting, isn't it? Poland states that the Istanbul Convention is secondary document compared to the constitution of Poland. Why? What in the Polish constitution has to have upper hand over the Istanbul Convention? Hungry states that this Istanbul convention will never be accepted is Hungry. Why? Just to mention that the "religious group" in Bulgaria against Istanbul Convention were the Bulgarian Orthodox church, Bulgarian catholic church, the Bulgarian Muslim. All came with one common statement. When the Christian and the Muslim unite in a Christian country, which was 500 years occupied by the Turkish empire, I believe there is a good reason for it. Probably the answer to the questions is inside the convention explanatory report: https://rm.coe.int/16800d383a

  • 3
    Welcome to Politics.SE! If you believe the answer to the question is in the report you linked, could you summarise its contents? Otherwise, this is a link-only answer, and those are frowned upon on StackExchange as links tend to die out over time. Unless you edit your answer to include the relevant information in that report, this answer might get deleted.
    – F1Krazy
    Jun 1, 2018 at 12:28

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