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Istanbul Convention, Gender, and State Silence

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Istanbul Convention, Gender, and State Silence

David Walsh

December 30, 2022

The Istanbul Convention is back in the news. On Wednesday, the Swiss government rejected the idea of introducing a third-gender or no-gender option for official records (1). The promotion of gender ideology is a key element of the hotly debated Istanbul Convention.

Due to the refusal of six states to ratify the IC, the EU Commission is preparing to adopt a Directive which would be legally binding on member states. It has drafted a document which is now in the process of being considered by the Parliament, after which it will be put before the EU Council for final implementation (2).

This will bring to a head once again the sovereignty issue: Whether national law or EU law takes precedence when there is a conflict.

It unexpectedly brings together two issues important to the EU: Hate speech laws (3) and gender ideology, which Bulgaria identified as an element of the Convention.

It is likely that the Directive will require citizens who criticise gender ideology to be charged under hate speech laws.

In Bulgaria, the Constitutional Court declared the Convention incompatible with the Fundamental Law due to its understanding of gender as a fluid construct, dependent on subjective feelings (4).

And all of this is proceeding with  almost no discussion. Indeed, the citizens of most member states are entirely unaware that this is happening behind their backs, so little of these deliberations is making it into the media. Normally the EU Parliament gets little attention in national media, but in recent weeks, a corruption scandal has engulfed the Parliament and a vice-president is now in jail together with several associates, a scandal at the worst possible moment (5).

There are momentous issues at stake as the Bulgarian Constitutional Court determined; the focus on gender ideology has infuriated EU officials and brought accusations of disinformation (6).

Not all EU countries have provided for gender self-identification; in some places such as Ireland, it was imported by stealth and the pitfalls of this legislation are now becoming clearer as is the introduction of gender ideology in primary schools.

And so the Commission continues on the well-established path of keeping citizens in the dark, a pattern of behaviour well known as the “democratic deficit.”

When the Istanbul Convention was first introduced for individual states to ratify, a cloak of  secrecy surrounded it.

In neither Ireland or England, was it put before citizens (6); no experts teased out its implications, no legal minds were asked to predict its consequences into the future or whether its provisions would be for good or ill. Consequently very few people are aware of its ramifications.

It all smacks of an attitude towards the public of “we know what is good for you.” And that attitude continues today.


(1) Switzerland rejects idea of a third-gender option in official records.

(2) Draft Report EU Parliament Oct 26 2022:

(3)   which was released in Nov 2020, describes how “hate speech” will be added to the list of “EU crimes”: the Commission will present an initiative in 2021 to extend the list of ‘EU crimes’ to include hate crime and hate speech, including when targeted at LGBTIQ people.”



(6) Draft Report EU Parliament Oct 26, 2022: Par 11

(7)   Oct 26, 2022