The decisions of the governments of Slovakia, Bulgaria and Latvia not to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) caused a turmoil within the Council of Europe system. This article first examines the respective rationales provided to justify the states’ decisions not to ratify the Convention. Against the background of the Bulgarian Constitutional Court’s recent decision, legal advice provided to the governments of Slovakia and Latvia and various public announcements, the present article examines legal, cultural, linguistic and societal arguments put forward by the respective governments against ratification. It then revisits the interpretative declarations submitted by Poland, Lithuania, Croatia and Latvia against the Convention’s narrow reservation regime. The article then compares the situation ignited by the Istanbul Convention with the reservation regime under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (cedaw) and the so-called Sharia reservations. It highlights the interconnectedness of the two treaties as well as their differences, while shedding light on the treaties’ reservations/declarations regimes. In so doing, a discussion is offered of the advantages and disadvantages of wider and narrower reservation regimes in treaties pertaining to the rights of women. The article concludes by pointing to the implications for the validity and effectiveness of the interpretative declarations submitted by the EU countries in question if the Istanbul Convention and cedaw are not treaties in conflict, and if the declarations are manifestly unfounded. The article also places emphasis on the role of grevio and the cedaw Committee to combat potential withdrawal tendencies via high-quality monitoring and evaluation output.
The article offers a critical look at the complex relationship between the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and policy-supportive (scientific) evidence. In particular, due to now commonplace, evidence-based policy-making of national governments, the Court is effectively supplemented with various statistics and studies and tasked with reviewing policy measures aiming to improve the public good. This article investigates the ECtHR’s use and interpretation of policy-supportive evidence in the proportionality analysis, and how this affects the margin of appreciation. The recent case of Dubská and Krejzová concerning the ban on home births, which the article explores in detail, is illustrative in this regard. Although the Court appears to review scientific evidence substantively, an increased proliferation of statistics and studies may bring about controversy in relation to legal cases, without having a conclusive impact upon the outcome of a dispute.