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TreatyOn 4 November 1950 the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) was opened for signature to CoE member states. Drafted within the framework of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ECHR is a legally binding treaty that covers the basic civil and political rights and freedoms states parties must guarantee to everyone living within their jurisdiction. Since it came into force on 3 September 1953, additional rights have been added to the ECHR through protocols and implementation is supported by the European Court of Human Rights.

As a precondition to joining the CoE, all states must be party to the ECHR. Therefore, all member states of the CoE are party to the ECHR and bound by its provisions.


It should be noted that state parties are allowed to submit reservations under Article 57 of the ECHR:

1. Any State may, when signing this Convention or when depositing its instrument of ratification, make a reservation in respect of any particular provision of the Convention to the extent that any law then in force in its territory is not in conformity with the provision. Reservations of a general character shall not be permitted under this article.

2. Any reservation made under this article shall contain a brief statement of the law concerned.

This means that the state may ratify the ECHR but also choose to opt out of certain provisions contained within it. For example, Spain made a reservation to Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) due to:

Article 28 of the Constitution recognises the right to organise, but provides that legislation may restrict the exercise of this right or make it subject to exception in the case of the armed forces or other corps subject to military discipline and shall regulate the manner of its exercise in the case of civil servants.

Article 127, paragraph 1, specifies that serving judges, law officers and prosecutors may not belong to either political parties or trade unions and provides that legislation shall lay down the system and modalities as to the professional association of these groups.

iconLockWant more? Read reservations by states parties to the ECHR

How does it help tackle violence against women?

The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

Article 14, European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

Violence against women is not just an act of violence, but an act of violence that persists through sustained gender inequality. At its core VAW is both a cause and a consequence of gender-based discrimination, impacting all women regardless of wealth, race, culture and location. Adopting a human rights perspective is an important part of developing approaches to tackle VAW, as it obliges states to address the violation as existing in a wider environment of discrimination and inequality. Guaranteeing women the equal enjoyment of rights in the ECHR is not just a part of tackling VAW, it is a necessity.

Some of the rights in the ECHR considered most relevant to tackling VAW include:

  • Article 2: Right to life
  • Article 3: Prohibition of torture
  • Article 4: Prohibition of slavery and forced labour
  • Article 5: Right to liberty and security
  • Article 8: Right to respect for private and family life
  • Article 11: Freedom of assembly and association
  • Article 12: Right to marry
  • Article 13: Right to an effective remedy
  • Article 14: Prohibition of discrimination

iconLockWhat more? Take a look at the CoE’s Toolkit to inform public officials about their state’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights

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