Turkish women losing faith in government determination to effectively tackle gender-based violence

Women’s rights activists have said since Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty to combat violence against women, many women have lost faith that the authorities will protect them when confronted with violence.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle Turkish service (DW), Selime Büyükgöze from the Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter, said the convention emphasized the equality of genders. “The government’s new proposal to tackle gender-based violence will be ineffective because it does not acknowledge gender equality,” she said.

The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, is an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies and was opened to signature of member countries of the Council of Europe in 2011.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip 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.

Conservatives within the ruling party have argued the treaty’s principles of gender equality undermine traditional family values.

“The arguments put forward by government officials and the president that men and women are not equal have led to an immense loss of faith among women that authorities are sincere in their promise to tackle femicide and gender-based violence,” said Büyükgöze.

According to Selin Nakipoğlu, from the Women’s Platform for Equality (ESIK), had the convention been implemented properly since it went into force in August 2014, several protective measures would have been put into place.

“A nationwide phone line for women who were subject to violence was supposed to be launched. Moreover, rape crisis centers and a commission for gender equality were supposed to be established,” said Nakipoğlu.

She added that the convention was also important for imposing the necessary punishment on perpetrators of violence and femicide.

A new government proposal to combat gender-based violence has been harshly criticized by activists for being lenient on perpetrators of violence and not acknowledging gender equality.

According to the proposal that was put forward by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and sent to parliament for debate, if the perpetrator of violence shows remorse, they can benefit from a reduced sentence.

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