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UK: Istanbul Convention finally comes into force - but the Government stops short of protecting all women

Turkey Istanbul Convention withdrawal protests © Amnesty International Turkey

Earlier this year the UK ratified the ‘gold standard’ convention to prevent and combat violence against women and girls and domestic violence 

However, the Government has reserved article 59 of the treaty opting out of protecting migrant women 

‘The Government must immediately remove the reservation to this article and provide equal protection for every woman in need, irrespective of migration status’ - Sacha Deshmukh 

Responding to the UK’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention coming into force today (1 November), Sacha Deshmukh, Chief Executive at Amnesty International UK, said: 

“Amnesty welcomes the Istanbul Convention finally coming into force in the UK, but let’s not kid ourselves that the Government has done enough to protect women from domestic violence.  

“By quietly reserving article 59 of the treaty, the Government is still failing some of the most vulnerable women living in this country: migrant women. 

“Not being obliged to provide support and protection to migrant women effectively reinforces the two-tier system of support for victims, as some remain discriminated against because of their migration status.

“The Government must immediately remove the reservation to this article and provide equal protection for every woman in need. 

“All women, regardless of where they come from, deserve protection against violence.” 

UK’s ratification: Too little too late? 

Earlier this year the UK ratified the Istanbul Convention, which entered into force today (1st November).  

However, the Government reserved article 59 which sets out state obligations to provide protection to migrant women. By doing so the Government is also acting against one of the main principles of the convention which requires countries to implement its provisions without discrimination on any grounds, to ensure no one is left behind. 

The Government’s motivation for this was allegedly to wait on evidence arising from its Support for Migrant Women pilot which concluded in the summer. 

The pilot scheme was set up as part of the Domestic Abuse Act to provide support and gather evidence on needs for women with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), even though specialist domestic violence services have highlighted the discrimination faced by victims with NRPF for decades.  

The limited length and resources of the pilot - £1.4 million to cover one year – was not adequate to provide support for all the women requiring assistance. According to specialist domestic violence service Southall Black Sisters £1.4m would only support around 500 women for 3 months, each over a one-year period – meaning many women would continue to be excluded from protection and crisis support. 

Amnesty is calling on the Government to remove the reservation to article 59 and provide equal protection for all women irrespective of migration status immediately.   


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