Anger, condemnation after Turkey exits treaty to protect women

Since last year, women have taken to the streets across the country calling on the government to stick to the convention.

Erdogan issued the dictadorial Decree on Friday 19/3/21, just hours before the Kurdish Nowruz new year celebrations which are marked by the women’s social and political revolution in neighbouring Rojava.

No reason was provided for the withdrawal, but officials in Erdogan’s AK Party said last year that the government was considering pulling out amid a dispute about how to curb growing violence against women [Murad Sezer/Reuters]

Turkey has sparked local and international outrage after it withdrew from the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women.

The 2011 Istanbul Convention, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

On Friday, Turkey pulled out of the treaty by a presidential decree in a shocking move for human rights activists in the country

.After a long campaign of misogyny and anti-LGBTI hate, #Turkey withdraws from #IstanbulConvention on combating violence against women by midnight presidential decree. Meanwhile, 77 women were killed in the first 78 days of this year. The government is complicit in their deaths. Deniz Yüksel@denizyuksel130

No reason was provided for the withdrawal, but officials in Erdogan’s governing Justice and Development (AK) Party had said last year that the government was considering pulling out amid a dispute about how to curb growing violence against women.

Europe’s top rights body, the Council of Europe, denounced Turkey’s withdrawal from a treaty it sponsored and expressed concern about global efforts to protect women and girls.

The body’s secretary general, Marija Pejcinovic Buric, said the treaty was a “gold standard” in international efforts to protect women.

The opposition CHP party criticised the move, and one party official said that abandoning the treaty meant 'keeping women second class citizens and letting them be killed' [File: Murad Sezer/Reuters]

The opposition CHP party criticised the move, and one party official said that abandoning the treaty meant ‘keeping women second class citizens and letting them be killed’ [File: Murad Sezer/Reuters]

“This move is a huge setback to these efforts and all the more deplorable because it compromises the protection of women in Turkey, across Europe and beyond,” said Buric in a statement.

“The Istanbul Convention … is widely regarded as the gold standard in international efforts to protect women and girls from the violence that they face every day in our societies.”

Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun said Turkey continues to work to make women participate more in social, economic, political and cultural life.

“We will always say strong women, strong Turkey,” he said on Twitter.

“The guarantee of women’s rights are the current regulations in our bylaws, primarily our Constitution. Our judicial system is dynamic and strong enough to implement new regulations as needed,” Family, Labour and Social Policies Minister Zehra Zumrut said on Twitter, without providing a reason for the move.

Making women’s life ‘hell’

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) slammed the government’s move.

In a video published on Twitter, CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said that the government had taken away the rights of 42 million women through a fait accompli.

Anger, condemnation after Turkey exits treaty to protect women #HDP #IstanbulConvention @vvanwilgenburg @mutludc #Newroz @starrcongress #FreedomForOcalan @RISEUP4R0JAVA #YPJ #Turkey #violenceagainstwomen @unwomenturkey https://wp.me/pIJl9-iRj

“I call on all women to protect their rights,” he said, adding that the government sought to make the lives of Turkish women “hell”.

Gokce Gokcen, deputy chairman of the CHP responsible for human rights, tweeted that abandoning the treaty meant “keeping women second class citizens and letting them be killed”.

Since last year, women have taken to the streets in cities across the country calling on the government to stick to the convention.

Ipek Bozkurt of We Will Stop Femicide Platform said women were shocked by the government’s move.

“There was a great campaign against the Istanbul Convention in Turkey last summer. All women’s NGOs, including the ones close to the government, said then it is not possible to discuss anything against the convention,” Bozkurt told Al Jazeera from Istanbul.

“It basically lays down the legal grounds for all the national laws to combat violence against women. So it seems like it is a decision that is not inspired by the women and women’s movements in the country,” she said, adding that last year alone, 300 women were killed by men in Turkey.

Pride march banned

The 2011 Istanbul Convention requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse, as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

Rights groups accuse Erdogan of taking mostly Muslim but officially secular Turkey on an increasingly socially conservative course during his 18 years in power.

Turkish conservatives claimed the charter damages family unity, encourages divorce and that its references to equality were being used by the LGBTQ community to gain broader acceptance in society.

After a huge Pride March in Istanbul drew 100,000 people in 2014, the government responded by banning future events in the city, citing security concerns.

In January this year, Turkish police detained four people after artwork depicting Islam’s holiest site viewed as offensive by Ankara was hung at an Istanbul university at the centre of recent protests.

Turkey pulls out of treaty protecting women from violence

Politicians claim charter damages family unity, encourages divorce and acceptance of the LGBT community.

Turkey’s Erdoğan quits Istanbul Convention with a midnight presidential decree

Turkey has withdrawn from the Istanbul Convention with a midnight decree despite the country’s violence against women and femicide plague. The withdrawal from the European treaty was long sought by Islamists.

Saturday March 20 2021 08:28 am by duvar english

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pulled Turkey out of an international accord designed to protect women, the country’s official gazette said on March 20, despite calls from campaigners who see the pact as key to combating rising domestic violence.

The Council of Europe accord, forged in Istanbul, pledged to prevent, prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and promote equality. Turkey, which signed the accord in 2011, has been seeing a rise in femicides in recent years.

No reason was provided for the withdrawal that took place with a presidential decree at midnight, but officials in Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had said last year the government was considering pulling out amid a row over how to curb growing violence against women.

The fact that the withdrawal took place with a midnight presidential decree was slammed on social media since the treaty was approved in parliament and not Erdoğan himself. 

“The guarantee of women’s rights are the current regulations in our bylaws, primarily our Constitution. Our judicial system is dynamic and strong enough to implement new regulations as needed,” Family, Labor and Social Policies Minister Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk said on Twitter at 2:50 a.m. on March 20, without providing a reason for the move.

Selçuk was slammed for apparently denying the fact that over 70 women were killed since the beginning of 2021 alone. The Turkish judiciary protects men in femicide and violence against women cases – although it’s swift in acting to sentence critics of Erdoğan and the AKP.  

Women have been calling on the government to fully implement the Istanbul Convention, while also pointing to the lack of measures to protect women from violent men since the repeated complaints about violence or restraining orders fall short of convincing authorities that the woman in question is in danger.

Critics of the withdrawal from the pact have said it would put Turkey further out of step with the values of the European Union, which it remains a candidate to join. They argue the deal, and legislation approved in its wake, need to be implemented more stringently.

Many conservatives in Turkey say the Istanbul Convention undermines family structures, encouraging violence. They are also hostile to the principle of gender equality in the pact and see it as promoting homosexuality, given its principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Turkey is not the first country to move towards ditching the accord. Poland’s highest court scrutinized the pact after a cabinet member said Warsaw should quit the treaty which the nationalist government considers too liberal.

Erdoğan has condemned violence against women, including saying this month that his government would work to eradicate violence against women.  

Turkey does not keep official statistics on femicide. World Health Organization data has shown 38% of women in Turkey are subject to violence from a partner in their lifetime, compared to about 25% in Europe.

Ankara has taken measures such as tagging individuals known to resort to violence and creating a smartphone app for women to alert police, which has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. The app is not available in Kurdish.

Erdoğan’s decision comes after he unveiled judicial reforms this month that he said would improve rights and freedoms, and help meet EU standards. Turkey has been a candidate to join the bloc since 2005, but access talks have been halted over policy differences and Ankara’s record on human rights.

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