Croatia ratifies treaty to protect women, despite protests

Zagreb (Croatia) (AFP) –


Croatia's parliament ratified a treaty safeguarding women on Friday, despite opposition from conservatives and the powerful Catholic Church.

The Council of Europe's so-called Istanbul Convention is the world's first binding instrument to prevent and combat violence against women, from marital rape to female genital mutilation.

Opponents to the treaty in Croatia have argued it promotes what they call a "gender ideology" that undermines traditional family and Christian values.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic faced opposition from the right wing of his ruling HDZ party, while bishops urged MPs not to vote for its ratification, labelling the convention a "heresy".

Plenkovic promised the treaty's ratification would not alter the country's constitution, which defines marriage as the union of a woman and a man.

Thousands of people have demonstrated against the move in recent weeks in Croatia's largest cities of Zagreb and Split.

Nearly 90 percent of Croatia's 4.2 million people are Catholic and the Church plays an important role in society.

The convention, agreed in 2011, has now been ratified by 29 countries, including 18 members of the European Union, which Croatia joined in 2013.