On Thursday, Turkey officially withdrew from an international treaty to prevent violence against women, prompting massive protests in Turkey.
According to the reports, Turkey formally pulled out from participation in the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention three months after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had announced the decision to pull from the treaty through a surprise overnight decree. A court appeal to stop the withdrawal was rejected earlier this week, making Turkey formally withdraw from the Istanbul Convention.
On Thursday, Turkey President Erdogan announced his own “Action Plan for Combating Violence against Women” that includes goals such as reviewing judicial processes, improving protection services and gathering data on violence.
“Some groups are trying to present our official withdrawal from the Istanbul convention on July 1st as going backwards,” the Turkish President said, adding, “Just like our fight against violence towards women did not start with the Istanbul Convention, it will not end with our withdrawal.”
Announcing the formal withdrawal, Erdogan emphasised the traditional family and gender values, saying combating violence against women was also a fight to “protect the rights and the honour of our mothers, wives, daughters.”
The 2011 Istanbul Convention, widely regarded as the gold standard in international efforts to protect women and girls from violence, was signed by 45 countries and the European Union. Turkey had signed it in 2011, but violence has surged in the country in recent years.
The treaty requires governments to adopt legislation criminalising domestic violence as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.
Earlier in March, the Turkish President had said that they would be pulling out from the internationally binding treaty that pledged to prevent, prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and promote equality.
Protests erupt in Turkey
Meanwhile, thousands have hit the streets in Turkey to protest against the decision, demanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reverse his decision to withdraw from the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women.
The withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention is a blow to women’s rights advocates, said women protestors who had assembled on the streets of Istanbul in similar protests last March.
“We will not be silenced, we will not fear, we will not bow down,” chanted women among a crowd of several hundred who gathered in the capital Ankara. “We are not giving up on the Istanbul Convention,” read a large purple banner.
Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard called Turkey’s withdrawal “shameful”. Turkey has turned its back on the gold standard for the safety of women and girls, she said in a statement.
“The withdrawal sends a reckless and dangerous message to perpetrators who abuse, maim and kill: that they can carry on doing so with impunity,” Agnes added.
According to the “We Will Stop Femicide” group, 189 women were killed in 2021 in Turkey and 409 last year, including dozens who were found dead under suspicious circumstances.
Why did Turkey withdraw?
Reportedly, the Turkish government’s decision to withdraw from the treaty comes at the backdrop of growing fundamentalism in the Islamic country. Thus, the move is depicted as the latest victory for conservatives in Erdogan’s party and their allies in Turkey.
The Turkish government claims that the convention undermines family structures, encourages violence and divorce. Besides, the LGBT community uses the references in the treaty for demanding equal rights and broader acceptance in the society, which has caused a major worry for the Turkish conservative government.
The Istanbul Convention states that men and women have equal rights and obliges state authorities to take steps to prevent gender-based violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.