Turkey has withdrawn from the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women by presidential decree, in the recent victory for conservatives in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party.
The 2011 Istanbul Convention, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to pass legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuses, as well as rape and female genital mutilation.
Conservatives had argued that the charter harms family unity, encourages divorce and that its references to equality were used by the LGBT community to gain wider acceptance in society.
The publication of the decree in the official newspaper early on Saturday sparked anger among rights groups and calls for protests in Istanbul.
Just IN: TURKEY Hates WOMEN🤦🏽♀️ # Turkey has withdrawn from the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, a presidential decree said on Friday. The Istanbul Convention of 2011 requires governments to pass legislation that prosecutes domestic violence and image. twitter.com/BDSQXy3907
– GIRDLE #FGM News. Awareness. Defense. Support. (@thegirdlengr) March 20, 2021
Gokce Gokcen, vice-president of the main opposition CHP party, said abandoning the treaty meant “keeping second-class women and letting them be killed.”
“Despite you and your evil, we will stay alive and take back the convention,” she said on Twitter.
Turkey had debated a possible resignation after an official in Erdogan’s party took up the treaty last year.
Since then, women have taken to the streets in cities across the country, urging the government to abide by the convention.
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Zehra Zumrut Selcuk told the official news agency Anadolu that Turkey’s constitution and domestic rules would instead be “the guarantee of women’s rights”.
“We will continue our fight against violence with the principle of zero tolerance,” she said on Saturday.
Domestic violence and the death of women are still a serious problem in Turkey.
A man was arrested on Sunday in the north of the country after a video on social media allegedly showed him hitting his ex-wife on a street triggered outrage.
Last year, 300 women were murdered according to the rights group We Will Stop Femicide Platform.
The platform called for a “collective struggle against those who lost the Istanbul Convention”, in a statement on Twitter.
“The Istanbul Convention was not signed at your command and it will not leave our lives at your command,” tweeted its secretary general Fidan Ataselim.
She urged women to protest in Kadikoy on the Asian side of Istanbul on Saturday.
“Withdraw the decision, implement the convention,” she tweeted.
Kerem Altiparmak, an academic and lawyer specializing in human rights, likened the government’s shredding of the 1980 military coup convention.
“What was abolished tonight is not just the Istanbul Convention but the will and legislative power of Parliament,” he commented.
Rights groups accuse Erdogan of taking mostly Muslim but officially secular Turkey on an increasingly socially conservative course during his 18 years in power.
After a spectacular pride march in Istanbul that drew 100,000 people in 2014, the government responded by banning future events in the city with reference to security concerns.
And in January, Turkish police arrested four people after works of art depicting Islam’s holiest site, which Ankara considered offensive, were hung at a university in Istanbul at the center of recent protests.