Latvian Churches and the Istanbul Convention

11. Mar, 2018

I am writing on behalf of the Iona Community with regard to the recent refusal of the Latvian Government* to move towards ratification of the Istanbul Convention, which seeks to combat and to protect women from gender-based violence, especially domestic abuse.

As an ecumenical Christian community, based in Scotland but with members across Europe, our Rule of Life, and in particular our Justice and Peace Commitment, states that ‘We believe that the Gospel commands us to seek peace based on justice…’ We further believe ‘that everyone should have the quality and dignity of a full life that requires adequate physical, social and political opportunity, without the oppression of poverty, injustice and fear.’
We therefore support the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, and we reject the opposition of some church leaders against ratification. We believe that the first duty of Christians is to the victims of violence, to those who are most vulnerable and to those women who have suffered greatly, unsupported by the churches who should be doing the most to oppose the structural and systemic causes of violence against women.

We are pleased that the UK Government is about to ratify the Convention, and that the Scottish Government has recently, unanimously, passed a Domestic Abuse Bill as part of the ratification process.
We commend those Christians in Latvia who have stood up in favour of ratification, and who are, or have been penalised for doing so. We salute your solidarity with the victims of violence, and stand with you in prayer as you take your resistance, your persistence and your insistence forward.
(Rev Dr) Kathy Galloway
(Iona Community Leadership Team)
Prayers and support from women in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Warmest blessings, Elaine Cameron (Iona Community Associate)

In January and February 2018 Latvian society has been going through a heated debate about the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). Ministry of Welfare together with the party „Unity” has been consistently working towards the ratification (or the legal adoption) of the Istanbul Convention taking into account the overall situation in the country: every third female in Latvia has experienced some type of violence from male.

However, the „Union of Greens and Farmers” and the „National Alliance” parties supported by the archbishops of the Catholic and the Lutheran Churches, as well as the Baptists and the Russian Orthodox, and slos the School Teachers union have currently blocked the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. The opponents of the Convention claim that it contains underwater rocks and serves as a Trojan horse for the Latvian society and culture aiming to undermine the family institute and introduce so-called Western liberal values (e.g. homosexual marriages in the church and curricula for a genderless upbringing of Latvian children).


Istanbul Convention is a Council of Europe convention against violence against women and domestic violence which was opened for signature on 11 May 2011, in Istanbul, Turkey. Latvia was among the last countries to sign the Convention in 2016. Yet for the Convention to enter the full force in a particular country, the national Parliament needs to ratify it.You can also read our post about the theologians and pastors who signed an open letter to voice their support for the ratification of the Convention. You can read more about it here.