Women’s rights activists demonstrate at Council of State for reinstatement of Istanbul Convention

 Representatives of women’s rights organizations and opposition politicians gathered on Tuesday morning in front of the Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, in Ankara, for the next hearing concerning the cancellation of Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, Turkish media reported.

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 the 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.

Amid calls from women’s rights organizations and world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, for reinstatement of the Istanbul Convention, the Council of State has so far rejected numerous appeals requesting the cancellation of Erdoğan’s executive decree withdrawing Turkey from the convention.

However, new appeals have recently been filed with the court demanding the cancellation of the relevant presidential decree, and the court’s 10th Chamber will hold its next hearing today.

Pervin Buldan from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said the court’s decision was a matter of “life and death.” “We will never accept withdrawal from the treaty in an overnight decision,” she said.

Lawyer Müjde Tozbey from the Women and Children First Association (Önce Çocuklar ve Kadınlar Derneği), said they were attending the hearing with families of those women who had fallen victim to gender-based violence. “Each case of femicide is the failure of the government, because it is the government’s responsibility to protect women,” she said.

Lawyer Hülya Gülbahar from the same association added that withdrawing from an international treaty with a presidential decree was against the constitution. “According to Article 90 the parliament can sign or withdraw from an international treaty. The president does not have such power,” she said.

Activists argued that since Turkey withdrew from the treaty, gender-based violence had increased. They also criticized the government for not keeping better track of the number of femicide cases.

Women’s rights activists try to document femicide cases based on media reports.

Selin Nakıpoğlu from the Women’s Platform for Equality (EŞİK) said they represented thousands of women who wanted the treaty to be reinstated. “The fate of millions of Turkish women cannot be in the hands of one person [the president],” she said. “The government is increasingly pressuring women’s rights organizations and trying to close them.”

Nakıpoğlu pointed out that only last week Erdogan had called Gezi Park protestors “sluts.” She said such language clearly indicated the patriarchal mindset of Erdogan and his government.

President Erdoğan and prominent conservative figures in the government and media have repeatedly said they see gender equality as contradictory to the nature of men and women.

Femicides and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women are killed, raped or beaten every day. Many critics say the main reason behind the situation is the policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which protects violent and abusive men by granting them impunity.

According to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform (Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu), 280 women were murdered in Turkey in 2021.

survey conducted by Metropoll revealed last year that 52.3 percent of Turks are against the withdrawal from the convention. While more than a majority of participants oppose it, 26.7 percent approve and 10.2 percent had no opinion.

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