ZAGREB, March 24, 2018 – Several thousand protesters in downtown Zagreb on Saturday asked MPs not to ratify the Istanbul Convention, saying it imposed a gender ideology which would not be restricted by the interpretive statement accompanying the Convention and told Prime Minister Andrej Plenković that he was a traitor and should leave.
Marija Petričević, a member of the “Croatia Against the Istanbul Convention” citizens’ initiative, said that, by ratifying the Convention, Croatia would undertake the legal obligation to finance NGOs which protected the human rights “of only some people… associations and activists that have been receiving money from the state budget for years to protect women and human rights,” but that “act as parapolitical organisations.”
She said she did not want Croatia to pay one billion kuna in taxpayers’ money for activities that had nothing to do with the protection of women and children, or the GREVIO committee, which she said consisted of ten women who promoted the gender ideology, to be authorised to interfere in Croatia’s policies, finances and justice system.
Former MP Gordana Turić accused some of spending public money for a fight against Croatian identity and traditional values, and said there was a desire to impose a gender ideology and negate Croatian identity through the education system.
Another speaker, Marija Burazer, said Plenković’s interpretive statement had no legal weight as “all the key obligations Croatia undertakes with the ratification remain unchanged.” She said no reservations were allowed about ideological provisions “on gender as a social construct separate from sex,” the obligation to finance civil society organisations or GREVIO’s “arbitrary” oversight of the government and the states which ratified the Convention. She said the “ratification… won’t protect victims of violence” and that “the interpretive statement won’t protect my civil right that no one can impose theories and ideologies on me as undisputed truth.”
Another speaker, Marija Lukačin, said the Istanbul Convention, hiding behind victims of abuse, was imposing a gender ideology. She said she wanted schools free of ideology, adding that the concept of gender as separate from sex was not agreed at European Union or Council of Europe level.
She said Plenković and his cabinet did not care about women and children because if they did, “gravely ill children would get the best medicines,” more than 100,000 women would not work on Sundays, and thousands of children would be receiving the alimony they were legally entitled to.
Organisers “estimate” the protest drew 70,000 people, while police estimated there were 5,000. Many protesters in the main city square carried Croatian flags and banners against Plenković and the ratification, shouting “betrayal,” “leave”, “this is Croatia”, and “Vukovar”. Some of the banners said “The prime minister is breaking up the HDZ and Croatia – For the Homeland” and “Shame on you, government”.
Police said there were no incidents and that a dozen buses from various parts of the country arrived at the protest organised by the Zagreb city and county association of Homeland War defenders’ widows. Police said 1,500 gathered in front of the HDZ headquarters at Victims of Fascism Square, where the protest began, and 5,000 at Ban Jelačić Square, where it continued. Journalists estimated the protest drew 10,000 people.