The ratification of the Istanbul Convention in Latvia stands as a momentous achievement for women’s human rights. This historic milestone was the result of a strenuous process that was fuelled by the tragic murder of a woman in Jekabpils last spring. The victim had used every possible available legal means of protection, and the perpetrator, who is still missing, had 18 criminal cases against him, and yet he was not detained and committed femicide in front of the eyes of her child and mother. The victim’s heartbreaking case served as a catalyst for a wave of activism and advocacy that ultimately led to the convention’s ratification.
In April 2023, Association “MARTA Centre”, together with other organisations, held a powerful protest in front of the Cabinet of Ministers in Latvia, demanding swift action to strengthen protection measures and the urgent ratification of the Istanbul Convention. This demonstration galvanised public attention and spurred the government into action. In response to the tragic event, working groups were formed to review and amend Latvia’s criminal laws. Furthermore, a National Plan for Preventing And Combatting Domestic Violence 2025-2029 was set into action as per demands of the MARTA Centre. The plan is currently still in process of revision.
NGOs in Latvia were active in their advocacy work, constantly demanding the ratification of the Istanbul Convention in the media and during meetings. As the new Cabinet of Ministers was forming towards the end of 2023 with Evika Silina as Prime Minister, the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, along with civil partnership law, became top priorities of the new Cabinet. However, the ratification process was not without its challenges.
Throughout October and November 2023, NGOs faced a concerted misinformation campaign from opponents of the convention, who spread false narratives about its impact on education and LGBTQ+ rights. MARTA Centre responded with resilience and determination, producing a comprehensive document titled “Myths and Facts about the Istanbul Convention” to dispel these misconceptions and educate the public. This resource was used as one of the key sources of information and myth-debunking for both the media and policymakers, and played a crucial role in countering the misinformation and mobilising public support for ratification.
Despite these obstacles, the tireless efforts of NGOs, particularly MARTA Centre, Sievietei paveicas, and Skalbes, by actively educating the public and advocating on every level, including reaching out to members of Parliament, participating in Parliament Committee sittings, as well as launching a comprehensive media campaign in the weeks prior to ratification, were instrumental in securing the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.
On November 30th 2023, the Parliament voted in favour of the convention with 51 votes, barely surpassing the threshold. This landmark achievement is a testament to the dedication and perseverance of NGOs and the politicians within the current government who tirelessly advocated for the convention’s ratification, marking a significant victory for women’s human rights in Latvia.
The Convention will come into force in Latvia on the 1st of May 2024.
Beata Jonite, Policy Coordinator at MARTA Centre
 Two of which are WAVE member organisations in Latvia:
Krīžu un Konsultāciju Centrs “Skalbes”(Crisis and Counselling Centre “Skalbes”) | website: www.skalbes.lv
Biedrība “Centrs MARTA” (Association “MARTA Centre”) | website: https://marta.lv/lv/
Photo 1: Women’s Solidarity March in 2023 in Latvia
Photo 2: Maija Krastiņa, Sievietei paveicās, Raivo Vilcāns, Skalbes” and Beata Jonite, Marta Centre (left to right) in front of the Parliament after one of the Committee sittings about the Istanbul Convention
Photo 3: Team of MARTA Centre receiving a Cabinet of Ministers award in November 2023