Council of Europe reaffirms support for Istanbul Convention amid Turkey’s possible withdrawal from treaty

Council of Europe, Strasbourg

The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on September 11 released a statement and reaffirmed its support for the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, amid Turkey’s possible withdrawal from the treaty.

PACE said it regretted statements by politicians in Turkey who claimed that it had a hidden agenda and called for withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention. “Intentional distortion of its aims and talk about a hidden agenda aiming to redefine the concept of ‘family’ or regulating family life or structures are groundless claims at the service of defending, preserving and amplifying patriarchal structures.”

The convention, which has been signed by 45 of the Council of Europe member states and ratified by 34 of them, has split views inside Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Turkey’s decision to ratify the Istanbul Convention was “wrong,” AKP Deputy Chair Numan Kurtulmuş said on July 2. The Turkish government has debated withdrawing from the convention as conservative groups in society argue that it breaks the family apart.

After signing it Turkey added Article 6284 to its Civil Law, which defines the rights of women who feel threatened in their homes. The article has shortened the path to obtaining a restraining order against husbands who inflict violence. Pro-government columnists argue that Article 6284’s definition of violence is too broad and that it has invited the state into the domestic sphere.

The article also mentions people who are subjected to violence due to their sexual orientation, and it has been criticized by conservative journalists for promoting homosexuality.

Pace refuted these claims and said, “These negative stances are the result of deliberate misrepresentations about the objectives and provisions of the treaty.”

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the first European treaty specifically targeting violence against women and domestic violence, was opened for signature in May 2011 in Istanbul and entered into force in August 2014. No state has ever withdrawn from it.

Amnesty International warned on August 5 that Turkish authorities should fully implement the Istanbul Convention rather than withdraw from it.

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