The Istanbul Convention enters into force in the European Union on October 1, Sunday, and becomes binding for all European institutions and member states. A spokesman for the European Commission said today that, although it has not been ratified at the national level by several countries, including Bulgaria, the Convention is legally binding on all member states of the community. He cited the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, according to which agreements concluded by the EU with international organizations are binding on the member states and the institutions of the Union.

The Istanbul Convention is a comprehensive legal framework aimed at protecting women against all forms of violence. It aims to prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence, and implement comprehensive and coordinated policies.

At the beginning of July, the EU finally adopted the Convention, obliging member states to implement the measures under it.

“Violence against women is unacceptable in our democratic societies. Every third woman has been a victim of physical or sexual violence. Too many of them don’t report it. Too many offenders go unpunished. We must act and the Istanbul Convention is our legal response to strengthen women’s rights. We will continue to encourage member states to take the necessary measures to prevent violence against women and ensure effective protection and support for all victims,” said Vice President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova.

“The entry into force of the Istanbul Convention is an important milestone for the EU. This gold standard recognizes that violence against women is a violation of their human rights. For us all to live in a fair and just European Union, women and girls must be able to live without daily insecurity, fear and violence. The entry into force of the Convention is a historic event and a good step in this direction”, said Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality.

21 EU countries have also ratified the Istanbul Convention at the national level. 6 countries have not done so – Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. In 2021, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that the European Union as a whole could ratify the convention by qualified majority voting rather than unanimity because of the refusal of some countries to accept it.

In 2018, the Constitutional Court of Bulgaria adopted a decision stating that the Istanbul Convention advocates legal concepts related to the concept of “gender” that are incompatible with the basic principles of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria. In the Bulgarian language, the word “pol” is used both for biological sex and the gender role.