Head of women's crisis centre in Vilnius calls on Seimas to ratify Istanbul Convention

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March for women's rights

The head of Vilnius Women's House, a non-governmental organization running a crisis centre for women, has called on the Lithuanian parliament to ratify the so-called Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, saying that it would help fight sexual harassment.

According to Lilija Henrika Vasiliauskienė, the ratification of this international treaty would define in detail sexual offenses and ensure broader rights for the victims.

"If the convention were ratified, it would be said clearly that this (sexual harassment) is not a social problem, but a problem of human rights violation," she told reporters.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius signed the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence back in 2013, but the Seimas has not yet ratified it.

The Foreign Minister has taken over the process of drafting the ratification documents from the Social Security and Labor Ministry.

Supporters of the ratification say that this is the most comprehensive international treaty on efforts against domestic violence and abuse of women, while opponents dismiss as unacceptable the definition of gender as a social construct and the obligation to include teaching material on non-stereotyped gender roles in the curriculum.

Critics say that if Lithuania ratifies the Istanbul Convention, it may have to change its gender concept and introduce unacceptable provisions on homosexuality.

The head of Vilnius Women's House said, however, that interest groups opposing the ratification fear that "all that is hidden behind closed doors, behind the scenes of theaters and in the auditoriums of high schools will come to light".

Several lecturers of the Vilnius Academy of Arts have been recently publicly accused of sexual harassment and improper behavior toward students, including two Lithuanian National Culture and Arts Prize winners -- photographer Gintautas Trimakas and painter Jonas Gasiūnas.

Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, also urged Lithuania to ratify the Istanbul Convention during his visit to Vilnius last April.

Source: BNS
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