Turkey’s withdrawal from Istanbul Convention is a ‘worrying step backwards’: UN human rights experts

Turkey’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s (CoE) binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, is “a very worrying step backwards,” a group of independent UN human rights experts said on Tuesday.

The UN special rapporteur on violence against women, the chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other UN and regional human rights experts deeply regretted the Turkish government’s decision.

“This decision … sends a dangerous message that violence against women is not important, with the risk of encouraging perpetrators and weakening measures to prevent it,” said Dubravka Šimonović, the UN special rapporteur on violence against women.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued an executive decree early on Saturday annulling Turkey’s ratification of the convention, the latest victory for conservatives in Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and their allies, who argued the CoE accord damaged family unity. Turkey said domestic laws would protect women’s rights.

Šimonović noted that it will only weaken laws that provide women protection and help keep them safe and “leaves them at further risk at a time when violence against women is surging all over the world.”

According to the UN human rights experts, the Istanbul Convention is the most recent international instrument that helps provide a roadmap for the elimination of gender-based violence against women and girls, along with the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action.

“The implementation of the Istanbul Convention alongside other international standards had resulted in positive changes at the national level,” the UN experts said.


On Saturday United Nations agencies also called on Turkey to reconsider its decision.

“We are concerned that Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention would undermine the significant efforts invested so far to prevent and combat violence against women and may hinder progress towards further strengthening of national legislative, policy and institutional frameworks,” they said.

“In its most extreme form, and often as the final act on a continuum of violence, hundreds of women are murdered every year,” the agencies said.

The Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, widely known as Istanbul Convention, was signed by 45 countries and the European Union in 2011 and requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

Turkey was the first member state to ratify the CoE convention, which was opened for signature in Istanbul during Turkey’s chairmanship of the organization 10 years ago.

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