Turkey has sparked local and international outrage after its withdrawal of the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women.
The 2011 Istanbul Convention, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, obliges governments to pass legislation punishing domestic violence and similar abuses as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.
Turkey withdrew from the treaty by presidential decree on Friday in a shocking move for human rights activists in the country.
No reason was given for the pullout, but officials from Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK) said last year that the government was considering pulling out amid a dispute over how to reduce the growing violence against women.
Europe’s main human rights body, the Council of Europe, has denounced Turkey’s withdrawal from a treaty it sponsored and has expressed concern about global efforts to protect women and men. girls.
The organization’s general secretary, Marija Pejcinovic Buric, said the treaty was a “gold standard” in international efforts to protect women.
“This decision is a huge setback for these efforts and all the more deplorable as it compromises the protection of women in Turkey, across Europe and beyond,” Buric said in a statement.
“The Istanbul Convention[…]is widely regarded as the gold standard in international efforts to protect women and girls from the violence they face every day in our societies. ”
Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun said Turkey continues to work for women to participate more in social, economic, political and cultural life.
“We will always say strong women, strong Turkey,” he said on Twitter.
“The guarantee of women’s rights is the current regulation of our statutes, mainly our Constitution. Our judicial system is dynamic and robust enough to implement new regulations as needed, ”Family, Labor and Social Policy Minister Zehra Zumrut said on Twitter, without giving any reason for the decision.
Make women’s lives ‘hell’
Turkey’s main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), criticized the government’s decision.
In a video posted on Twitter, CHP chief Kemal Kilicdaroglu said the government had taken the rights of 42 million women in a fait accompli.
“I call on all women to protect their rights,” he said, adding that the government seeks to make Turkish women’s lives “hell”.
Gokce Gokcen, CHP vice president for human rights, tweeted that dropping the treaty meant “keeping women second-class citizens and letting them be killed.”
Since last year, women have taken to the streets of cities across the country to demand that the government stick to the convention.
Ipek Bozkurt of We Will Stop Femicide Platform said the women were shocked by the government’s decision.
“There was a big campaign against the Istanbul Convention in Turkey last summer. All women’s NGOs, including those close to the government, said it was then not possible to discuss anything against the convention, ”Bozkurt told Al Jazeera in Istanbul.
“It essentially establishes the legal bases for all national laws to combat violence against women. So it appears to be a decision that is not inspired by the women and women’s movements in the country, ”she said, adding that last year alone 300 women were killed by men. in Turkey.
Forbidden Pride March
The 2011 Istanbul Convention obliges governments to pass legislation punishing domestic violence and similar abuses, as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.
Rights groups accuse Erdogan of leading predominantly Muslim but officially secular Turkey down an increasingly socially conservative path during his 18 years in power.
Turkish conservatives have claimed that the charter undermines family unity, encourages divorce and that its references to equality are used by the LGBTQ community to gain wider acceptance in society.
After a huge pride march in Istanbul drew 100,000 people in 2014, the government responded by banning future events in the city, citing security concerns.
In January this year, Turkish police arrested four people after artwork depicting Islam’s holiest site considered offensive by Ankara was hung at an Istanbul university at the center of recent protests.