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2021.04.29 17:30

President's poll on Istanbul Convention draws criticism – it ‘doesn't add clarity’

LRT.lt2021.04.29 17:30

Almost half of Lithuanians oppose the Istanbul Convention, the president's office says, quoting a recent opinion poll. However, critics insist the survey does not support the claim.

The 2011 Council of Europe's Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence – better known as the Istanbul Convention – has yet to be ratified by the Lithuanian parliament, but has drawn opposition from socially conservative MPs and activists.

Read more: Lithuania's religious leaders voice opposition to Istanbul Convention and same-sex partnership

The office of President Gitanas Nausėda has commissioned a poll, asking respondents “Do you agree that Lithuania has to ratify the Istanbul Convention?”

Almost half, or 48.8 percent, said they “disagree” or “rather disagree”, while 22.1 percent of those polled said they fully or rather agreed. Another 29.2 percent had no opinion on the issue, Delfi.lt reported on Thursday.

The pollster Vilmorus polled 1,001 people by phone between April 8 and 17.

The president's press service told Delfi.lt that Nausėda's office “periodically commissions public opinion polls on topical issues” which can be “an additional source for finding out people's opinions”.

While not opposing the Istanbul Convention directly, President Nausėda has indicated his scepticism about the document and sided with a Catholic priest who criticised the document.

Read more: 'Inquisition' of the church? Celebrity priest in Lithuania ignites controversy over Istanbul Convention

Supporters of the Istanbul Convention argue that its ratification would help Lithuania better tackle gendered violence. Its critics, meanwhile, oppose the document's definition of gender as a social construct rather than a biological fact.

Professor Aušra Maslauskaitė of Vytautas Magnus University says that the president's poll does not show what the public actually thinks about fighting violence against women.

“The single question, as it is formulated, does not give us the Lithuanian public's opinion on the Istanbul Convention,” the sociologist said. “What it may tell us is that they have heard the document mentioned somewhere in the media.”

Another scientist, Milda Ališauskienė of Vytautas Magnus University, says that the polling itself merely pours fuel on the fire and does not advance informed discussion.

“The question is improperly worded, since it is not clear what is meant by the ‘Istanbul Convention’,” she told LRT RADIO. “The fact that the public has been agitated over the document thus named does not tell us anything about the problems it addresses.”

“This poll tells us the society is agitated, [...] but not what it thinks about domestic violence, sexual violence and its prevention, [...] the assistance currently available, or relations between genders,” she added.

While the president has called for a public discussion on the Istanbul Convention, he has yet to actually start one, says Mintautė Jurkutė, spokeswoman for the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office.

“I welcome the presidential office's interest in what the public thinks, but we should note that [...] the president himself has not yet given his personal position,” she told LRT RADIO.

“We saw a lot of disinformation and politicking around this issue [the Istanbul Convention] throughout winter and early spring, as well as non-constructive discussion, so I am surprised to see this poll which, I agree, does not add any clarity,” she added.

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