In its first report on Poland, the Council of Europe’s GREVIO – the independent group that monitors implementation of the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) – praises recently introduced emergency barring orders, allowing law-enforcement agencies to temporarily evict a domestic abuser from a family residence. Accompanied by training initiatives, this reflects positive government efforts to implement a “fundamental cornerstone” of the convention, according to the report.
The report – published with the comments of the government and based on detailed research and a country visit to Poland late last year – also lauds growing case law based on the specific criminal offence of stalking, introduced in 2011, as well as the introduction of innovative criminal offences that capture the offline and online manifestations of harassment and stalking as well as the impersonation of another person online, including the possibility of increasing the sentence where this has led to a victim’s suicide.
Despite such progress, greater steps to stop sexual violence, rape and sexual harassment must be taken, according to GREVIO, starting with changing the definition of rape itself. As with some other previously monitored countries, Poland should align the definition of rape with convention requirements, which move away from a force-based definition to one covering all non-consensual sexual acts. Without a consent-based definition of rape in criminal law, prosecutors will “invariably decide” against seeking an indictment in cases where the sexual act is undisputed, but consent is not, GREVIO stresses. Out of the 17 previously monitored countries, three have an offence of sexual violence based entirely on lack of consent: Belgium, Malta, and Sweden.