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UN: Turkey’s withdrawal from Istanbul Convention undermines women’s rights

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LONDON: UN experts criticized Turkey for its decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women.

Dubravka Simonovic, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, was joined by Gladys Acosta Vargas, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, in expressing her deep regret over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to withdraw Turkey from convection.

Violence against women is rife in Turkey, with campaign groups regularly staging protests against what they perceive to be a society that forgives and forgets domestic violence. Experts fear that the withdrawal of the 2011 convention may contribute to this trend.

This decision to withdraw from such an important instrument is a very worrying step backwards. This sends a dangerous message that violence against women is not important, with the risk of encouraging perpetrators and weakening measures to prevent it, Simonovic said.

The move weakens protections for the well-being and safety of women and puts them at additional risk at a time when violence against women is increasing around the world, she added.

The Istanbul Convention is the most recent and comprehensive women’s rights instrument which, alongside the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Convention on the Elimination All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Beijing Platform for Action, provides a roadmap for the elimination of gender-based violence against women and girls.

Publicly available information has shown a sharp increase in femicide in Turkey in recent years, with UN experts reiterating their call for Ankara to collect and analyze relevant data and establish a femicide observatory to prevent further crimes.

UN experts said: These instruments recognize gender-based violence against women as a violation of human rights and commit states to put in place policies and legislation to eradicate it.

They added: The implementation of the Istanbul Convention alongside other international standards had brought about positive changes at the national level.

Turkey surprised many by leading the charge as the first state to ratify the convention in 2012, followed by 33 other countries.

The withdrawal decision was announced on March 20 by a presidential decree, without any debate in Parliament.

Vargas said: We call on Turkey to reconsider this decision and to consult with universities, civil society organizations, parliament and society at large.

UN experts have noted the increased risk of violence against women, especially domestic violence, amid restrictions imposed to tackle COVID-19 in Turkey.

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