A letter to the Minister for Justice and Equality

Dear Minister Fitzgerald

I refer to the response we have received from you on the matter of the Istanbul Convention dated on said document the 30th of May, 2014, we would like to address several matters raised by your letter.

Most notably you assert that the provisions relating to domestic violence in the "Council of Europe Convention on combating and preventing violence against women and domestic violence" may also be applied to men.

Even if we disregard the Convention's very name which directly references women, we can readily find in the foundational principles underlying the Convention, written at the start of the Convention, the following:

"Recognising that the realisation of de jure and de facto equality between women and men is a key element in the prevention of violence against women;

Recognising that violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between women and men, which have led to domination over, and discrimination against, women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women;

Recognising the structural nature of violence against women as gender-based violence, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men;"

There can be absolutely no doubt that the provisions specified within the Convention are not intended to help men, starting as they do with such a notably fallacious and biased perspective, and they will not be used to help men. Indeed, those who ratify this Convention are instructed as follows:

Article 2 – Scope of the Convention

1. This Convention shall apply to all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, which affects women disproportionately.

2. Parties are encouraged to apply this Convention to all victims of domestic violence. Parties shall pay particular attention to women victims of gender-based violence in implementing the provisions of this Convention.

And further in Article 18.

3. Parties shall ensure that measures taken pursuant to this chapter shall:

- be based on a gendered understanding of violence against women and domestic violence and shall focus on the human rights and safety of the victim;

- be based on an integrated approach which takes into account the relationship between victims, perpetrators, children and their wider social environment;

- aim at avoiding secondary victimisation;

- aim at the empowerment and economic independence of women victims of violence;

- allow, where appropriate, for a range of protection and support services to be located on the same premises;

- address the specific needs of vulnerable persons, including child victims, and be made available to them.

4. The provision of services shall not depend on the victim’s willingness to press charges or testify against any perpetrator

This is a radical ideological document, not an evidence based one, and will only worsen the situation for men in particular but also women trapped in situations of intimate partner violence. To give but one example of just how poorly considered the foundations of this Convention are, we need only look at the societal arrangements of the overwhelming majority in pre-famine Ireland.

At this time marriage for the majority was based on mutual admiration and on the skills which each partner brought to the family - the man provided land and farming skills to grow the staple crop of potatoes, and the woman brought weaving and spinning skills which provided extra money to buy tea, sugar and whatever else was needed by the household. Her input to the agricultural work of the family was also important. Before the famine women made an essential contribution to the family economy. As late as 1841 women accounted for more than half of the non-agricultural workforce. Most of their economic independence was based on spinning wool, cotton and linen.

Families at the time lived and worked together for the benefit of the family, not in fearful obedience to some patriarchal head of the household as is the implication of the Istanbul Convention.

Subsequent to the famine the Church expanded in power and influence exponentially, imposing upon the reeling populace its own ideological principles which were no less punitive and unnatural than those espoused by this Convention.

And members of the public are not the only ones who will be put in jeopardy by this Convention; I draw your attention to Article 5.

"Article 5 – State obligations and due diligence

1 Parties shall refrain from engaging in any act of violence against women and ensure that State authorities, officials, agents, institutions and other actors acting on behalf of the State act in conformity with this obligation.

2 Parties shall take the necessary legislative and other measures to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, punish and provide reparation for acts of violence covered by the scope of this Convention that are perpetrated by non-State actors."

So a member of An Garda Síochána facing an armed woman is no longer allowed to use force to protect themselves or others. This is specifically what the Convention stipulates.

There are many further troubling issues within the Convention but at this time we would like to thank the Minister for acknowledging gender symmetry in domestic and intimate partner violence, which has gone unrecognised for so long, to such an extent that men who were so persecuted were often shamed by their own communities, their own families.

It is therefore disappointing that the Minister failed to acknowledge the reasons for the mentioned disparity in serious injuries between men and women - which are not addressed by the Convention - nor have the consequences of ignoring such realities been given consideration. Given that men are in general physically stronger it must surely come as no surprise that such a disparity exists, but it does not however indicate any less of a desire to cause harm on the part of violent female abusers, merely less ability. More and more support for this fact is surfacing as less ideologically inclined research takes place, such as for example a recent study completed by Dr Elizabeth Bates from the University of Cumbria.

"Previous studies have sought to explain male violence towards women as arising from patriarchal values, which motivate men to seek to control women's behaviour, using violence if necessary.

"This study found that women demonstrated a desire to control their partners and were more likely to use physical aggression than men. This suggests that IPV may not be motivated by patriarchal values and needs to be studied within the context of other forms of aggression, which has potential implications for interventions."

"It wasn't just pushing and shoving. Some people were circling the boxes for things like beating up, kicking, and threatening to use a weapon.

"In terms of high levels of control and aggression, there was no difference between men and women."

Focusing on supporting women in particular in any policy or legislation dealing with domestic and intimate partner violence will only enable and encourage violent domestic abuse from those women so inclined. This is why we suggest taking a non gendered approach in all matters pertaining to domestic violence.

 

Worthy of mention at this point is a study done by Richard Davis, (2010) "Domestic violence-related deaths", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 2 Iss: 2, pp.44 - 52, wherein it is discovered that

An article in the NIJ Journal (Websdale, 2003) notes that domestic violence can provoke suicide. The 2003 Massachusetts Domestic Violence Homicide Report (Lauby et al, 2006) notes that suicide can be attributed to domestic violence incidents.

Utah Domestic Violence Related Deaths 2006 (Utah Domestic Violence Council, 2006) notes that the majority of domestic violence-related suicides are not covered in their report. The report Domestic Violence Fatalities (2005) (Utah Department of Health, 2006) notes that there were 44 suicides and 21 homicide domestic violence-related deaths in Utah in 2005.

Using data from the Surveillance for Violent Deaths - National Violent Death Reporting System, 16 States, 2005 (Karch et al, 2008), it is possible to extrapolate that as many as 7,832 male [suicides] and 1,958 domestic violence-related suicides occur annually in the US.

When domestic violence-related suicides are combined with domestic violence homicides, the total numbers of domestic violence-related deaths are higher for males than females. This paper recommends that to understand the broad scope and tragic impact of domestic violence, further research is needed concerning domestic violence-related suicide.

Given the five to one ratio of male to female suicides in this country, the Minister is invited to consider whether or not domestic violence towards men and the almost complete lack of support services for men so affected might not be a contributory factor to this enormously skewed ratio, and how this might affect the apparent disparity between men and women vis a vis serious injuries suffered due to domestic violence.

Furthermore the Convention makes no reference to the Travelling community in Ireland and its effects on the statistics describing serious injuries suffered in situations of domestic violence in Ireland. Given that the Travelling community is only half a percent of the population, but accounts for almost half of those who make use of domestic violence shelters in Ireland (2005 NCC/ESRI report), the question must be asked as to why services targeting this vulnerable section of the community aren't being given far greater priority than ideological platforms which will do more harm than good.

And finally we would like to express concern over the comments made in the Dáil by Dublin West TD Ruth Coppinger, as published today in The Journal regarding the Istanbul Convention. Specifically Coppinger attempts to raise a moral panic by misrepresenting statistics, presumably those published in the recent FRA report, to say "Gender-based violence is at epidemic levels and one in four women in Ireland has experienced domestic violence".

This is of course not an adequate representation of reality, and is especially troubling given that TD Coppinger follows up with a call to remove “constitutional impediments to obtaining emergency barring orders”, when what she's actually referring to are concepts such as the state not throwing you out of your own house, and due process based on reliable evidence, not as viewed through a discriminatory gender based lens.

We urge the Minister and the government to fulfill their mandates for true equality and reject this Convention, at least until at a minimum gendered and ideological references are removed from it, as the majority of European countries have not ratified the Convention. We would welcome the opportunity to meet to discuss these matters further, at the Minister's convenience.

Yours with respect

Mens Human Rights Ireland.

The original letter can be seen here:

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