CoE calls on Turkey to take further steps on violence against women

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A woman raises her fist next to another holding a sign reading "Stop men's and state violence" during a march on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul to mark International Women's Day on March 8, 2016. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP)

The Council of Europe (CoE) on Monday called on Turkey to take further action to comply fully with the Istanbul Convention’s provisions on violence against women.

In a 132-page evaluation report, the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO), an independent human rights body mandated to monitor the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention), welcomes Turkey’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention but seeks further steps.

GREVIO called on Turkey ‘to strengthen the co-ordinated response to violence against women by comprehensively addressing all forms of violence covered by the Istanbul Convention, with a particular emphasis on sexual violence against women and girls, forced marriage and crimes in the name of “honour.”

Emphasizing the importance of the dedication of appropriate “human and financial resources in preventing and combatting violence against women at both the central and local levels, including to support NGOs,” GREVIO asked Turkish authorities to “improve the co-ordination, monitoring and evaluation of policies, namely by strengthening the national co-ordinating body and by intensifying the participation of civil society organisations, including in particular women’s NGOs.”

Underlining the urgency of stepping up awareness-raising efforts on the different manifestations of violence against women covered by the convention, the independent human rights monitoring body called on Ankara “to pursue measures to provide all professionals concerned with appropriate compulsory initial and in-service training, by involving the expertise of women’s NGOs in designing and implementing training; facilitate victims’ access to compensation, as well as legal aid and protection measures during legal proceedings; take additional measures to ensure that victims exercise their free will in agreeing to  take part in criminal mediation; develop, in co-operation with specialist women’s NGOs, gender-sensitive procedures, guidelines and support services for women asylum seekers.”

GREVIO concluded that the situation regarding violence against women in Turkey offers a mixed picture, where undeniable evidence of progress coexists with reasons to be concerned.

Recalling the negative effects of the draining of resources in the civil service sector that came with the mass dismissal of civil servants following a failed coup attempt, the counterterrorism measures and security operations in southeastern Turkey, in the fulfillment of women’s right to live a life free from violence, the report said: “Without clear direction and an unswerving adherence to the principles of gender equality, such efforts and the many legislative and other gains which advanced the cause against violence against women in Turkey risk regressing,” adding, “In particular, the authorities should take an uncompromising stance against any attempt to culturalise the issue of women’s rights and deflect attention from the root cause of violence against women which lies in the unequal gendered structures in society.”

GREVIO is composed of 10 independent and impartial experts appointed on the basis of their recognized expertise in the fields of human rights, gender equality, violence against women and/or assistance to and protection of victims.

GREVIO’s statutory activities include country-by-country monitoring of the Istanbul Convention (evaluation procedure), the initiation of inquiries into specific circumstances within a party to the convention (inquiry procedure) and the adoption of general recommendations on themes and concepts of the convention.

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