It has taken three years but the Istanbul Convention will soon be ratified

The Hungarian political scene is so active that one can’t keep up with it, especially now that the jostling among opposition parties has begun in earnest. After all, the national election is just a little more than a year away. Yet I would be amiss if I didn’t report on what one can only hope is a significant achievement of women’s groups in Hungary. The Orbán government has at last begun the process of ratifying the Istanbul Convention, which was initiated by the Council of Europe and opened for signature on May 11, 2011. The convention aims at preventing violence against women and domestic violence. As of May 2016, it had been signed by 44 countries. Between 2013 and 2016, it was ratified by 21 countries.

Hungary was one of the signatories, but it has yet has to ratify the convention, although it could have done so at any time after August 2014. Ratification involves changing existing laws to conform to the requirements of the Istanbul Convention. Preparations for the ratification have been taking place in secret without any input from women’s groups or experts.

The Hungarian government has been dragging its heels for about two and a half years. Népszabadság reported in August 2014 that Hungary was one of seven members of the European Union where the law does not guarantee automatic prosecution of all forms of domestic violence. In addition, it is only in Hungary that there is no specific intervention program guided by experts, working with men who had committed sexual violence.

Several months went by without anything happening until, in March 2015, Zsuzsanna Szelényi (Együtt), supported by 36 other members of parliament, turned in a motion to speed up the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. It was known ahead of time that Jobbik would not vote for the motion because the Convention “is not concerned with the most widespread and most brutal domestic violence, the act of abortion,” but to everybody’s surprise the members of Fidesz-KDNP joined Jobbik and voted against Szelényi’s motion. Even Mrs. Pelcz, née Ildikó Gáll, a Fidesz member of the European Parliament, couldn’t quite understand why the government refused to speed up the process of ratification. Péter Niedermüller, DK MEP, considered the Fidesz decision “shameful and abominable.”

After two years of government inaction, on February 1, 2017, in the pouring rain, a small group of women labelled feminists, a curse word in Hungarian right-wing circles, demonstrated in front of the parliament. Fidesz’s reaction to this small demonstration was outrageous. According to the latest Fidesz spokesman, “at the moment, immigration and the settlement of migrants are the greatest dangers in Europe. Wherever migrants appeared violence against women and children skyrocketed…. Those same opposition parties that keep worrying about women in roundtable discussions prevented parliament from modifying  the constitution to prohibit the settlement of migrants.” The message is that domestic violence in the country is insignificant or at least is not nearly as serious as the migrants’ sexual assaults against European women and children.

A week later, on February 8, 2017, Szilvia Gyurkó, a lawyer involved in children’s rights issues, wrote a short article in which she listed three reasons for the government’s reluctance to act on the ratification. One is that in Hungary domestic violence is a relatively rare occurrence. This is not the case. According to a 2014 study, 27% of girls under the age of 15 experience physical, sexual or psychological abuse. Seven percent of adult women can be considered victims of domestic violence. The second reason is that proponents of the Convention include under the rubric of sexual abuse actions that are not violent but are only inappropriate behavior toward women. The third reason is that Hungarians don’t need the ratification of the Istanbul Convention because the government defends Hungarian women more than adequately from unwanted approaches or physical abuse.

Gyurkó may have been kind to the government. A Fidesz-supporting journalist offered his reasons not to ratify the Convention. László Vésey Kovács of Pesti Srácok objects to changing the Hungarian law primarily because “women’s rights NGOs, supported by George Soros, under the pretext of a concern for battered women, want to interfere in the lives of Hungarian families.” In plain language, domestic violence is nobody’s business outside the family.

Meanwhile a survey taken late last year shows that Hungarians are fully aware of the problem of domestic violence in their country. Almost 20% of them consider it to be a very serious problem and another 53% think it is widespread. Only 3% seem to be ignorant of the problem. Even so, half of the adult population believe that there are certain situations in which sexual violence is acceptable: a drunk or drugged partner (24% in Hungary while the Union average is 12%), a woman willingly accompanies a man home after a party (20% versus 12%), sexy clothing (21% versus 10%), and the “no” is not explicit enough (14% versus 10%).

A few days ago the government at last decided to submit the issue for discussion in parliament, which was described by Index as a “Valentine’s Day gift.” However, there is fear that the government will try to “soften” the legal consequences of the Convention. For example, LMP’s Bernadett Szél is afraid that the present practice of launching an investigation only after the victim files an official complaint will continue. Szél also asked Sándor Pintér, minister of the interior, to provide crime statistics. Last week Pintér assured the chairwoman of LMP that the number of physical abuse cases has been decreasing in the last six years. While in 2010 there were 5,000 such cases, by 2016 the police registered only 3,210 such instances. The number of registered rapes in 2010 was 241, but last year they reported only 10 such cases. In the whole country! Among a population of almost 10 million! A miraculous improvement, I must say.

What will happen now that the text of the modifications to Hungarian law is available online and comments can be submitted for about two weeks before the final text reaches the lawmakers? I have the strong suspicion that the women’s groups and human rights activists are not going to be satisfied with the Ministry of Justice’s understanding and interpretation of the Convention’s intent.

February 18, 2017
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LwiiH
Guest

It’s more likely that most cases go unreported as the police mostly don’t care. A friend was told by the police to go home and f the guy who abused her as that would keep him from adult ING her. As for restraining orders, forget it.

Lydia
Guest
Many cases go unreported and up until 2013 there were no reliable statistics from courts or police on the number of cases, so I’m surprised at the seemingly made up stats provided by Pinter – simply because the crime of domestic violence was not a stand alone criminal provision in the criminal code. Any stats would require approaching each individual court or station and literally read through all the court decisions and reported crimes to get a fuller pictures of how widespread the problem is. Moreover, another reason for the government to drag their feet in ratifying the convention is that they don’t like the term “domestic violence” which is also why the Hungarian translation “csaladon beluli eroszak” was preferred in an effort to describe this as something that can also happen to men and boys. While of course men and boys can certainly also be subjected to violence in the home, it cannot be compared to the level of which women are world wide. Ultimately, women cannot expect the state to protect them in situations of domestic violence. Shelters are too few, childless elderly women at disadvantage, police usually don’t care and “unless blood flows” send the women home… Read more »
Guest

My wife says that in Hungary women are still considered second class citizens – just like in the good old days!
It’s no wonder that they also are underrepresented in parliament.
And we know of violent husbands in the village – after one of my neighbours died, his wife was downtrodden at first (on the outside ….) but after a few weeks she started to “bloom” and told my wife again how horribly the husband used to treat her, which she had told no one about …
Now she’s happily living in her house, going out to talk to the neighbours and inviting them in – which her husband had forbidden her to do.

And this guy was a policeman …

Melanie Zuben
Guest

As I can see it, there is a great business opportunity in Hungary to introduce Martial Arts to women (karate/fencing etc.) and set up classes in cities/villages, teach them self-defense.
Just imagine . . . 🙂

Also, I’ve just watched a brilliant interview with Peter Szijjarto on ABC Australia. This guy is exceptional! I must say that Orban has a very impressive team. (They are currently in Australia).

webber
Guest

Szíjjártó – what was it you liked the most? His haircut, his tight jacket, or the fact that he can actually speak in coherent sentences? (really impressive from a monkey, I admit).

Member

Vic’s just taking a cue from Vlad the Enabler, divine dispensation, and of course POTUS the PG…

After all, is not Woman but an authorized and pleasurable means for Man to beget Man (as even our moorish cousins concur)?

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2017/02/08/russia_decriminalized_domestic_violence_with_support_from_the_russian_orthodox.html
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But the victims are not alone…

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Melanie Zuben
Guest

What would you prefer, Stevan Harnad?
GRAB THEM BY THE D*#K?
Trump will bring the pussy back to fashion. That’s one of his mission (in case you weren’t aware of it). 🙂

Guest

So you would enjoy being raped by a drunken obese stinking Hungarian?
Well, we’ve known for long that you’re kind of “strange” …

webber
Guest

Never went out of fashion. How do you think we were all born?

Member

@webber, in general you have sense and often even wisdom, but your inability to curb your impulse to respond to every taunt is a (harmless) variant of Trump’s toxic twiffliction that just serves to reduce your credibility. Ignore “Melanie Zuben.” We all know that she is coprolalic and disturbed. I hope that when Professor Balogh gets to it she will just delete MZ’s latest graffito and every comment on it, including this one. Otherwise the predictable next step is that MZ again starts flogging her scribblings…

Melanie Zuben
Guest

wolfi & Stevan Harnad,

I don’t remember you abusing “petofi” over his comments re: incest/pedophilia etc. a few days ago.
I don’t remember any of you on this blog asking Eva to delete him because he’s “strange and disturbed”.
As I can see, Liberal intellectuals have double standards. They are allowed to be “strange and disturbed”, but a “genetically inferior moron” is not allowed to have an input/ comment or (these days indirectly) flog her “scribblings”.

You can’t open a society by closing everybody’s mouth but your own. Even people like me should be allowed to have their say.

Ferenc
Guest

Even in Sweden!!

Guest

But we are allowed to laugh at your lunacy, I hope?

Melanie Zuben
Guest

wolfi,
Y E S, but only if I can laugh at your hypocrisy. By all means, please . . . knock yourselves out!

pappp
Guest
webber
Guest

OT – earlier topic:
CEU will certainly be staying in Hungary: The Rector has cancelled events that might offend Fideszniks, and has instructed staff not to express opinions that could offend the Hungarian government. So, Soros has backed down (very, very sad), as I feared he might. It seems the Rector feels the institution is more important than academic freedom.
http://hvg.hu/itthon/20170218_Kozepeuropai_Egyetem_ceu_Michael_Ignatieff_soros_gyorgy

pappp
Guest

I agree with the Recto if he feels so. I’m happy that CEU stays. This is a minor compromise and who knows how long will this compromise last – should Fidesz weaken things might change. It’s sad that Soros backed down, but it also means Fidesz doesn’t really want to fight. Fidesz rarely compromises on anything, only when it knows it’s not in a good position. So in a way this is a good news: Orban is unsure about being able to shut CEU down.

webber
Guest

This is not a minor compromise. This is a total retreat. Fidesz won.
That is the end of academic freedom.
N.b., other than the Közigazgatási, other Hungarian state universities don’t ask their staff to censor themselves.

pappp
Guest
I disagree, webber. Fidesz would’ve won only if CEU left Hungary for say Germany or Austria. We know that it’s not entirely inconceivable that Fidesz could eventually accomplish that if Orban decided so. But if it won’t happen then Fidesz did not win. In any case the actual effect of any CEU professor on current events in Hungary is basically nil. Nobody cares about liberal intellectuals whatever their affiliation. This is just idiotic, vain fideszniks being annoyed because they know well that the political danger from CEU professors is minimal. Only people who anyway hate Orban listen to CEU profs. It’s a suboptimal decision for sure but CEU’s continued presence is still – I believe – a greater good that is being served by this decision, however lamentable. (And let’s hope that when Fidesz disintegrates the policy will be quietly abandoned.) Mind you apart from very few liberal ELTE professors frombölcsészkar (the usual suspects) nobody from any Hungarian university dares to openly criticize the government, especially not somebody from a university that is located outside Budapest (which are part and parcel of their local political structures which are even more heavily controlled by Fidesz). Self censorship works just as perfectly,… Read more »
Guest

It really doesn’t matter in the end – Hungarian universities are all of the lowest rank world wide, nobody takes them seriously …
A relative of my wife who’s a prof in the USA now declined all invitations to Hungarian unis, he prefers congresses in Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey – whatever …

Member

Here I would agree with @webber: @ppp’s response is self-contradictory. It cheers the retreat while jeering the retreaters. (An incoherence, probably born of ambivalence and vagueness, that is a frequent feature of @ppp’s postings.)

You can’t open a society by closing your mouth. I hope it’s either just a feint or (even better, and more likely) a prelude to more subtle subversion. CEU’s academic distinction would be as good in Vienna as in Budapest, if that were all the CEU was about. But muzzling itself for the sake of scholarship — as the Hungarian Academy of Science (which cannot move to Vienna) is doing — would be self-defeating. I think (hope) that both Mr. Soros and Professor Ignatieff are wiser than that.

Member

Amazing! I am in total agreement with both Webber and Harnad!
Is that a pig I see flying outside my window?

pappp
Guest
It’s pragmatism. For me, as a Hungarian living in Hungary, the most important in this matter is that CEU stays. I would hate to see Vienna or Berlin gain CEU, they are rich and cultured enough. I don’t really think Western Europe is in need of another good university, they have plenty enough of them. If indeed this is the case that CEU stays then the loss of some public appearances by CEU profs is a minor, temporary loss. You can stick to your principles and then CEU could (maybe, maybe not, but there is a chance) be expelled. I think the result isn’t ideal, but on balance (decisions are rarely ideal) the decision is right. I didn’t cheer the decision – but I tend to interpret it as a sign of weakness of the Orban government (at present). The Czechs expelled CEU from Prague (when CEU was much smaller), Orban at his point in his political carreer, under the current political circumstances probably is unable to achieve that (or it would be too messy). But sure as shit Orban would like to do so if he felt he could. Orban is basically trying to clear distractions before the elections… Read more »
Member

It’s pragmatism… You can stick to your principles [but I]…”

I don’t think @ppp really means that.

@ppp is ambivalent, and vague — hence often incoherent — but not an opportunistic collaborationist (though earlier on I mistook him for a sophisticated Turul Troll).

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘You can’t open a society by closing your mouth’

Well said Prof Harnad. I’d hope the ‘brick and mortar’ universities existing will be able to hold off the clamps that are always being tried to be put on their facades. If they go well it holds great trouble in their work of developing and continuing the stream of ideas necessary for a free and democratic society.

pappp
Guest

C’mon, this isn’t collaboration. This is about the survival of CEU as a Hungarian institution. I’m not happy (yes, I’m ambivalent), but it’s a compromise I can live with. Otherwise, I think I made my case clear.

Guest

Could it be that the reason the government has taken such a long time to ratify the Istanbul Convention, which would criminalise the perpetrators of domestic violence, is because Orbán himself would then be in the docks?
It is common knowledge that he practices this ancient art on his wife…..

Member

That was a rumor planted by the MSZP ahead of the 2002 election. They did it just hours before the kampanycsend took effect so that Fidesz would be unable to respond in public. Fidesz broke the rules and Aniko Levai appeared on TV saying, “Look everyone! My jaw is in perfect shape! Not even a bruise!”
There’s plenty of stuff with which we can skewer Orban. No need to make things up.

petofi
Guest

It has just been reported in the great Russian medical establishment…that it is a scientific fact that if you beat your wife, she’s more liable to have male children.

So you see, Hungaricoes are just being scientific…

aida
Guest

This is just silly.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘domestic violence is nobody’s business outside the family’

??????????? What to say? This comes from a mindset from back in the Holocene. Magyarorszag….. roaring ahead to the prehistoric. To continue the attitude does much to ruin and degrade personal relationships in the society. The country manages to win awards on ‘love’ films but apparently the reality is much opposite in generating the deelings.

wrfree
Guest

Read ‘feelings..

Ferenc
Guest

OT
Interview with the Hungarian female director, who won the Golden Bear in Berlin. Of course mostly about the film itself, but the current situation in Hungary is also touched.
Quote (my translation): “What happening at the moment in our country is a shame”
Whole interview (in German): http://www.deutschlandradiokultur.de/ildiko-enyedi-ueber-on-body-and-soul-die-kleinen-komischen.2168.de.html?dram:article_id=379310

Magyar Bani Israel
Guest

Sorry we dont need Feminism or Mysogynism in Hungary.
And we dont need LGTB society either, Hungary is for traditional Adam and Eve family model, thanks.

Guest

Who decides this? You little country boys? Go back to your kocsma and drink yourself to death with your pálinka!

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