Prominent Turkish figures call on authorities to respect women’s rights ahead of International Women’s Day

Turkish intellectuals, journalists and members of the judiciary on Monday issued a statement ahead of March 8, International Women’s Day, calling on authorities in Turkey to respect gender equality and women’s rights, the T24 news website reported.

A total of 641 signatories criticized the government and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for withdrawing from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention.

The signatories said the country could not be fully democratic until women enjoyed the same rights as men and the law protected their rights. “Everyone is responsible for ensuring that women enjoy the rights that were granted to them with the Civil Law,” they said. “In recent years, the government has withdrawn from the Istanbul Convention, changed divorce laws and is now discussing limiting alimony. We reject these developments.”

Erdoğan sparked outrage in Turkey and the international community after he issued a decree in March 2021 that pulled the country out of the international treaty, which requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

Erdoğan has repeatedly said he sees gender equality as contradictory to the nature of men and women.

“Feminists don’t understand motherhood,” he said in a 2014 speech, claiming that Islam accords women high value due to their ability to bear and raise children.

Gender-based violence is a serious problem in Turkey. According to a report published in March 2021 by Sezgin Tanrıkulu,  a human rights defender and Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker, nearly 7,000 women were victims of femicide during the 18 years that the AKP had been in power.

Moreover, the government has proposed restricting the duration of alimony amid outcries from women’s rights activists who have said the proposal aimed to stop women from seeking divorce, forcing them to stay in abusive relationships.

The proposal has been under discussion since 2016, and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said they intend to send it to parliament for passage after Erdoğan approves it.

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