By Josie O’Brien
A report last month said the Polish government’s failing to address, prevent and combat violence against women and girls needs to be urgently addressed.
The Council of Europe report argued that the Law and Justice (PiS) party’s near total ban on abortion and unclear boundaries on what constitutes sexual assault is a human rights violation that puts women and girls at risk.
Law and Justice is a right-wing party that has been in power since autumn 2015.
The report comes almost a year after the Constitutional Tribunal, comprising mainly of judges appointed by the ruling party, declared the law authorising abortions for malformed fetuses to be unconstitutional.
The report was led by the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, a watchdog monitoring the implementation of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women.
The Istanbul Convention is a human rights treaty of the Council of Europe against gendered violence. It was opened for signature in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2011.
On the back of the report’s findings, the group of experts urged the Polish government to reform how sexual offences are outlined in its penal code to “fully incorporate the notion of freely given consent and to ensure appropriate sanctions for all sexual acts without the consent of the victim”. That is to say, the Law and Justice party does not recognise that sex without consent is rape.
“Polish law makers are threatening to make the country less safe for women and girls” said Monica Costa Riba, Amnesty International’s Senior Women’s Rights in Europe Campaigner.
“The dangers they face are getting worse. Lack of adequate protections for victims of violence combined with antiquated laws and a culture of victim-blaming and impunity form a combustible mixture.”
The party is also looking to replace the Istanbul Convention with a new ‘family rights’ law that views gender dynamics archaically. Experts fear that under the law, marital rape would be given the green light.
“It’s time to protect survivors of violence and recognise that sex without consent is rape,” added Riba.
“The government must adhere to these recommendations and take decisive action to fully implement the convention.”
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