The Polish government, emboldened by a narrow election victory this month and undeterred by criticism from European Union leaders, is considering withdrawing from a treaty aimed at curbing domestic violence and protecting women’s rights, with the country’s minister of justice filing paperwork on Monday to start the process.
The move came just one week after European Union leaders, bowing to pressure from Poland and Hungary, relaxed demands that were supposed to tie funding in the bloc’s long-term budget to issues related to rule of law. In the days since, both Warsaw and Budapest have pressed ahead with agendas that critics say compromise judicial independence, media freedom and gay rights.
Poland’s plan to pull out of the domestic abuse treaty is likely to face stiff resistance, however. The mere suggestion that the government wanted to withdraw prompted thousands of protesters to take to the streets over the weekend and led the Council of Europe, a human rights organization with 47 member countries, to express alarm at the prospect.
The treaty, known as the Istanbul Convention, is intended to combat violence against women in Europe. Conceived more than a decade ago, the treaty has been caught up in a maelstrom of disinformation and populist rhetoric, cast as a threat to national sovereignty and twisted by conspiracy theories and smear campaigns.
The convention has been targeted by far-right and nationalist leaders across East and Central Europe and has become a totem in the battle against what they portray as the too-liberal influences of Western culture. Although the treaty does not address issues of gay rights, opponents have claimed that the treaty promotes “L.G.B.T. ideology” and poses a threat to Christian morality. [Continue reading…]