Turkey: Erdogan withdraws from treaty to prevent and combat violence against women

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to withdraw from the world's first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women may be seen not only as a blow to the human rights of Turks, but as a retrograde step taking the country further away from Kemal Atatürk’s model of a modern, progressive and secular nation-state.

Hard-liners from Erdogan’s Islam-oriented party called for a review of the agreement, arguing it is inconsistent with Turkey's conservative values by encouraging divorce and undermining the traditional family unit.

Ironically, Turkey was the first country to sign the Council of Europe’s “Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence” at a committee of ministers meeting in Istanbul in 2011, with the law coming into force in 2014.

“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,” said Council of Europe Secretary General, Marija Pejčinović Burić.

A total of 77 women have been killed since the start of the year, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform. Some 409 women were killed in 2020, with dozens found dead under suspicious circumstances, according to the group.

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Numerous women's rights groups slammed the decision. Advocacy group Women's Coalition Turkey said the withdrawal from a human rights agreement was a first in Turkey. “It is clear that this decision will further encourage the murderers of women, harassers, rapists,” their statement said.

Many women suffer physical or sexual violence at the hands of their husbands or partners, but up-to-date official statistics are unavailable. The Istanbul Convention requires states to collect data.

Hundreds of gathered in Istanbul on Saturday, wearing masks and holding banners, calling for Erdogan's resignation.

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