Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention spells uncertainty, fear and real danger for millions of women and girls in Turkey, says Amnesty International

Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International

Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention,  the Council of Europe’s (CoE) binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, spells uncertainty, fear and real danger for millions of women and girls in Turkey, said Amnesty International in a statement published on its website yesterday.

“In the decade since it was first signed, the Istanbul Convention has been a crucial instrument that has helped protect women from violence,” said Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International.

May 11, 2021 is the 10th anniversary of the CoE Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, which was opened for signature during the CoE Ministers Committee meeting hosted by Turkey in 2011.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued an executive decree on March 20 annulling Turkey’s ratification of the treaty. Turkey was the first member state to ratify the CoE convention.

The rights watchdog said they are concerned that Turkey’s withdrawal is just the tip of a dangerous populist iceberg. “Using a backward-looking and misrepresented frame of “family values” several governments are attempting to roll back women’s and LGBTI+ rights across Europe,” the statement read.

Amnesty International said women’s and human rights groups around the world would protest Erdoğan’s decision to quit the international treaty. According to Callamard, women around the world have come together to demand that Turkish authorities reverse their decision and protect the lives of millions of women and girls.

“Rather than being discouraged women have been galvanized,” said Callamard. “More than ever, people are talking about the convention and understanding its importance.”

Gender based violence is serious problem in Turkey. According to a report published earlier by Sezgin Tanrıkulu,  a human rights defender and deputy from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), nearly 7,000 women have been victims of femicide during the 18 years that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power.

The report said one of the main reasons for the increase in deaths was because women were not taken seriously by law enforcement when they complained about violence. “Women go to the police and file a complaint against their partners after a violent incident,” said the report. “However, instead of taking the necessary legal steps against the perpetrators, the authorities act as conciliators and try to reconcile the partners.”

Despite alarming data Turkey withdrew from the convention instead of working for its better implementation because Turkish conservatives claimed the charter damaged family unity, encouraged divorce and that its references to equality were being used by the LGBT community to gain broader acceptance in society.

World leaders, including US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, international and regional organizations and right groups have reacted negatively to Turkey’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention.

US President Joe Biden said Turkey’s withdrawal from the accord was “deeply disappointing” and a step backward in efforts to end violence against women globally.

“Around the world, we are seeing increases in the number of domestic violence incidents, including reports of rising femicide in Turkey,” Biden said. “Countries should be working to strengthen and renew their commitments to ending violence against women, not rejecting international treaties designed to protect women and hold abusers accountable.”

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