Turkey must implement, not abandon, convention on combatting violence against women, warns Amnesty International

Turkish authorities should fully implement the Council of Europe treaty designed to prevent violence and domestic abuse against women, known as the Istanbul Convention, rather than withdraw from it, Amnesty International said ahead of discussions at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Central Executive Committee.

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 No state has ever withdrawn from it.

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 party, with conservative circles claiming that it will destroy families by introducing “foreign terminology” to traditional Turkish values and the law.

Turkey’s decision to ratify the Istanbul Convention was “wrong,” AKP Deputy Chair Numan Kurtulmuş said on July 2, indicating that the government might consider withdrawing from the convention.

Countrywide demonstrations are expected by campaigners calling on the authorities to fully implement the convention. Turkey was the first country to ratify the treaty.

“There is a bitter irony to the fact that the Turkish authorities are considering withdrawing from a Convention bearing the name of its most iconic city,” Amnesty International Women’s Rights Researcher Anna Błuś said.

“This discussion is deeply worrying, coming at time when COVID-19 measures, such as lockdown, have led to a spike in reports of violence against women and girls with many women and girls trapped at home with their abusers or unable to easily access safety and support services.”

“Turkey’s withdrawal from the Convention would have disastrous consequences for millions of women and girls in the country and to organizations providing vital support to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Even the discussion of a possible withdrawal is having a huge adverse impact on the safety of women and girls,” said Błuś.

“Rather than becoming the first Council of Europe Member State to withdraw from the Convention, Turkey should ensure the treaty is fully implemented and take immediate action to better protect and promote the rights of women and girls,” she added.

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