Turkey has officially withdrawn from the 2011 Istanbul Convention, an international treaty that protects women from violence. This is the first time that a member of the European Council has withdrawn from an international human rights convention.Agns Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said:[T]urkey set back women’s rights by ten years and set a terrifying precedent. She observed that “[T]her deplorable decision has already become a rallying point for women’s rights activists around the world, ”and pleaded that“ we must unite to resist further attacks on our rights.
In a surprising decree last March, President Recep Tayyip Erdoan announced Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention. The formal departure came after a court upheld Erdoans’ statement.Following his announcement, the Turkish Presidency’s Communications Directorate issued a statement saying that the Istanbul Convention attempts to normalize homosexuality which is incompatible with Turkey’s social and family values.
Erdo’s conservative Justice and Development Party (AK) believes that the conventional standard of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation undermines the traditional family structure. He said that despite Turkey’s withdrawal, it will continue to fight violence against women.Protests erupted across the country following his decree. Protesters, who include women, LGBTQ + groups and others, say the convention is key to protecting women in Turkey. The four pillars of the Istanbul Convention of prevention, protection, prosecution and policy coordination were designed to comprehensively address gender-based violence.
Femicide, defined as a hate crime based on sex, is on the rise in Turkey. CNN has reported on a watch group that has recorded at least one crime a day for the past five years. In addition, this year alone, 189 women have been murdered in Turkey, according to the group We Will Stop Femicide.Economic struggles caused by COVID-19 have led to a striking increase in violence against women, making the timing of Turkey’s departure from the Istanbul Convention particularly troubling for Turkish women.
As the international community has united in condemning Turkey’s exit from the convention, further steps must be taken to protect women from the escalating violence they face in Turkey. According to Agnès Callamrd,Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Treaty “is the tip of a dangerous anti-rights iceberg, adding that it has” galvanized activists around the world to defend the rights of women and LGBTI. “She also observed that since President Erdoan made this declaration, “women in Turkey and beyond” have been discussing the Convention “more than ever and taking to the streets to defend what it represents.” This “fight to uphold the human rights of all those affected by the scourge of gender-based violence continues, ”Callamard concluded.
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