The Istanbul Convention - Experience from the Czech Republic

The Istanbul Convention - Experience from the Czech Republic

29. 11. 2018

Three years ago in 2015 Czech Women´s Lobby together with Amnesty International led a successful campaign called and gathered almost 10 thousand signatures of a petition to support the Istanbul Convention. The Czech Republic signed the convention on the 5th of May 2016.

The Czech Republic has followed the safe path and before ratification wanted to put our legislation in harmony with the requirements of the convention. Due to that it’s been taking quite a long time from signature to ratification. Now the laws are adjusted and nothing is banning us from ratifying it within the legal procedures.

But for the last year or two we have noticed a great backlash in human and mainly women´s rights coming in hand with populism. The Catholic Church is spreading false information about the Convention mainly in regards to gender ideology as they call it and affects the conservative people and catholic believers through disinformation and fear.

On 28th of November, the public holiday, a very high positioned priest preached against the Istanbul convention in the St. Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle. After denouncing the proposed laws as the work of “neo-Marxists,” he pictured what the future would look like under the new rules if accepted. Here’s a rough translation of what he said that day:

  • Your families will be torn apart. If you tell your children men and women are not the same, that’s enough of an excuse to separate you from them.
  • They will take your children away, and they won’t tell you where they are, where they were sold, or where they are prisoners. All it will take is a single false accusation.
  • You will no longer be able to determine the sex of your newborn baby by looking at its genitals.
  • Because your children will decide their own sex, you won’t even be allowed to give them names.
  • If there’s a disagreement between parents and children, the adults will be deported to a concentration camp where they could be executed.
  • Homosexuals will be declared a superior ruling class. Everyone else will be a part of the inferior working class with no freedom of speech.
  • People will be inferior to animals that reproduce sexually since the law won’t apply to cats, frogs, or insects.

Right after this happened, we filed legal complaint on this priest and the public debate opened up. Our aim was mainly to bring to the light what is going on in the Catholic Church and how it can affect lives of thousands of victims of violence. Together with Amnesty International we continue to defend the convention. We were there in autumn to defend it at a public hearing at the Parliament where two anti-petitions were presented and the opponents were speaking against the petition.

Unfortunately, it seems most of the people and mainly the politicians do not agree with the ratification. One of the arguments is that we do not need it and we can solve the problem ourselves (very typical approach for Czechs, I must say). But I can say that now we see some positive twist thanks to the broad public debate, mainly in the media, which could help us. We are ready to continue and lobby for the ratification of the Istanbul convention in the Czech Republic and believe it will not be a futile fight.

(The speech of the director of Czech Women's Lobby Hana Stelzerová on Round Table with NGOs on the Istanbul Convention at the Council of Europe, 29.11. 2018)