April 15, 2021

2021-0414-contemporary.jpgOn Wednesday, April 14, Contemporary Challenges in American & Global Law held its first program of the Spring Session, focusing on “Combating Gender-Based Violence: The Council of Europe Istanbul Convention Approach and the U.S. Experience.” The program was held just weeks after Turkey—which was the first country to ratify the Istanbul Convention in 2011—announced its withdrawal from the Convention. Katarzyna Wolska-Wrona (CUA LL.M. 2005), Chief Expert for the European Affairs Committee, Prime Minister's Chancellery Republic of Poland, led the discussion from the European perspective, while the Honorable Diane Kiesel ’85, Acting Supreme Court Justice for the Supreme Court of New York County, Criminal Term, provided comments considering the American experience.

The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence—commonly referred to as the Istanbul Convention—is a legally binding human rights treaty established by the Council of Europe to combat violence against women across Europe. With initiatives dating as far back as the 1990s, the Istanbul Convention represents a more unified and comprehensive approach to the pervasive issued of gender-based and domestic violence issues across Europe. Wolska-Wrona briefly explained the differences and connections between the European Union and the Council of Europe as international structures and then provided the group with a detailed explanation of the Istanbul Convention. Wolska-Wrona outlined the three core principles of the Istanbul Convention—the right to live without violence, violence against women is a structural issue, and domestic violence affects women disproportionately to other groups—and then delved deeper into the importance of the Convention. Wolska-Wrona noted that the holistic nature of the Convention provides state parties with a road map for prevention, prosecution, protection, integrated policies, and monitoring of gender-based and domestic violence. She concluded by briefly speaking specifically to Poland’s implementation of the Istanbul Convention—highlighting the “victim-centric” approach to support that it provides.

Judge Kiesel then provided insight into the American experience of combating domestic and gender-based violence, drawing a parallel between the Istanbul Convention and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which was first introduced in the U.S. in 1995. Just as the Istanbul Convention creates a cohesive, integrated approach to combating violence within the member nations, VAWA strives to create a uniform approach to violence at the federal level rather than leaving it to each of the 50 states to create individual systems. Judge Kiesel also noted that VAWA has stalled in recent years as a result of political opposition.

The remainder of the program was dedicated to the Q&A portion of the event. Judge Kiesel opened the segment, posing a question to Wolska-Wrona regarding what factors would influence a country’s decision to sign, but not ratify the Istanbul Convention. Then both Wolska-Wrona and Judge Kiesel answered additional questions from the audience, moderated by Professor Emerita Leah Wortham, Director of the American Law Program and the LL.M. Program at Catholic Law. Both speakers shared their opinions on the use and effectiveness of deterrents on violent crimes, early intervention techniques, and political obstacles and flashpoints for the Istanbul Convention and VAWA. The program concluded with a poignant reminder of the importance of exploring historical, cultural, and political differences between countries as a means of better understanding the legal structures in which we live.

To learn more about upcoming webinars, click here.

You can view a recording of the webinar below.