Turkey withdraws from European treaty protecting women

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey has withdrawn from a landmark European treaty protecting women from violence that it was the first to sign 10 years ago and that bears the name of its largest city.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decree early yesterday annulling Turkey’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention is a blow to women’s rights advocates, who said the agreement is crucial to combating domestic violence.

The Council of Europe’s Secretary General, Marija Pejčinović Burić, called the decision “devastating”.

“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,” she said.

The Istanbul Convention states that men and women have equal rights and obliges state authorities to take steps to prevent gender-based violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.

File photo shows protesters chant slogans during a rally to mark International Women’s Day in Istanbul. PHOTO: AP

Women’s groups and their allies who have been protesting to keep the convention intact immediately called for demonstrations across the country yesterday under the slogan “Withdraw the decision, apply the treaty.” Violence against and killing of women is on the rise in Turkey, according to rights groups.

A total of 77 women have been killed since the start of the year, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform. At least 409 women were killed in 2020, according to the group.

Turkey’s minister for family, labour and social policies tweeted that women’s rights are still protected by Turkish laws and the judicial system is “dynamic and strong enough” to enact new regulations. Zehra Zumrut Selcuk also tweeted that violence against women is a crime against humanity and the government would continue to have “zero tolerance” for it.

Turkey was the first country to sign the Council of Europe’s “Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence” at a committee of ministers meeting in Istanbul in 2011. The law came into force in 2014 and Turkey’s constitution said international agreements have the force of law.