Croatia moves to adopt disputed treaty to combat violence against women

Many Croatian women are dissatisfied with the state of women’s rights in their country. (AFP pic)

ZAGREB: The Croatian government on Thursday sent a disputed treaty safeguarding women for ratification by its parliament despite resistance from Roman Catholic Church-backed groups who plan to protest in the capital at the weekend.

The Council of Europe convention, the world’s first binding instrument to prevent and combat violence against women, from marital rape to female genital mutilation, has split the country.

The Balkan nation’s conservatives, who are supported by the powerful Roman Catholic Church, along with hardliners from the ruling HDZ party, oppose the ratification.

They argue that under the guise of protecting women the so-called Istanbul Convention promotes what they call a “gender ideology” which would undermine the traditional family.

In a bid to calm down tensions, conservative Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, representing moderates within HDZ, said Thursday a bill ratifying the treaty was amended with a statement that should dismiss “concerns of certain groups in society.”

The statement said notably that the treaty does not imply the need to “introduce gender ideology” in the country’s schools or change the constitutional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“There are no hidden intentions (of the government) … but an intention to resolve the problem,” of violence against women, Plenković told a government session.

In the past four years 91 women were murdered in Croatia, including 41 by their partners, he added.

The treaty’s opponents will protest against its ratification in Zagreb on Saturday.

In the past weeks, the Roman Catholic Church launched a campaign against the convention’s ratification with priests publicising the protest after masses.

Bishop Vlado Košić in a statement earlier this month labelled the convention a “plague” and urged Croatia’s Catholic community to pray that it is not adopted.

Nearly 90% of Croatia’s 4.2 million people are Roman Catholics, and the Church plays an important role in society.

The convention has so far been ratified by 28 countries, including 17 European Union member states.

Croatia became the bloc’s newest member in 2013.