Turkey refuses to uphold European treaty ensuring protection against gender-based violence

Campaigners, Council of Europe members, and organisations have spoken out against Turkish authorities refusing to uphold the treaty.

People protesting in a city in Turkey against the government withdrawing from the Istanbul treaty

Turkey has abandoned a European treaty offering protection against domestic and gender-based violence because authorities believe its principles promote homosexuality and undermines ‘traditional’ family values.

In the city of Istanbul, the Council of Europe’s convention was launched 10 years ago to prevent, prosecute, and eliminate domestic abuse and gender-based violence. However, against the rise of hate speech in Turkey, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree annulling the country’s ratification of the treaty.

Turkish authorities argued against the Istanbul Convention because they claimed its principles of gender equality and non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation undermine family values and promote homosexuality. On Twitter, deputy chairperson of opposition Republican People’s Party, Gokce Gokcen, reacted to the decision by stating, “‘Let women continue to be second-class citizens and even be killed.’ Despite you and all your malice, we will live and restore the Convention!”

Council of Europe’s secretary general, Marija Pejcinovic Buric, called the decision “devastating”. She further expressed, “This move is a huge setback to these efforts and all the more deplorable because it compromises the protection of women in Turkey, across Europe and beyond.”

Under the Istanbul Convention, men and women have equal rights and state authorities are obliged to take steps to prevent gender-based violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators. According to the treaty, a state must also collect up-to-date data from those who have suffered sexual and physical abuse from their partners, which can be crucial for encouraging people to speak up. 

Campaigners have been fighting back against Turkish authorities and demanding the treaty be upheld. In Istanbul, people gathered for a demonstration under the slogan: “You’ll never walk alone.”

Advocacy group Women’s Coalition Turkey condemned the government by stating, “It is clear that this decision will further encourage the murderers of women, harassers, rapists.”

On Twitter, activist Ailbhe Smyth joined in the calls for upholding the treaty and protecting people against violence, “Turkey – a world leader in misogyny.  Shocking decision endangers the lives and safety of millions of women and girls.”

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