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CoE regrets Turkey’s withdrawal from İstanbul Convention without debate

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The Council of Europe (CoE) has expressed deep regret about Turkey’s withdrawal from the İstanbul Convention, the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, without any parliamentary debate and despite being widely supported in the country.

In a statement on Sunday Heiko Maas, German federal minister for foreign affairs and chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, and President of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly Rik Daems joined their voices to that of Marija Pejčinović Burić, secretary-general of the 47-nation Council of Europe, and issued a statement concerning Turkey’s announced withdrawal from the İstanbul Convention.

“Turkey was the first member State to ratify in 2012 the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, opened for signature in İstanbul during the Turkish Chairmanship of the Organization 10 years ago. And it did so by a unanimous vote at the Grand National Assembly,” they said in the statement.

The 2011 İstanbul Convention, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

“We thus deeply regret the decision of the President of Turkey to withdraw from this Convention widely supported in the country, without any parliamentary debate,” said the statement.

There was unease among nationalist and conservative circles in Turkey, who claimed the treaty was damaging family unity; however, the country’s sudden and unexpected withdrawal from the treaty through a presidential decree early on Saturday came as a shock to many.

“We recall that the purpose of the Convention is to prevent violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators. It upholds women’s fundamental human right to a life free from violence. Leaving the Convention would deprive Turkey and Turkish women of a vital tool to counter violence,” the statement said.

Domestic violence is very common in Turkey, where at least 300 women were murdered according to the rights group We Will Stop Femicide Platform.

“We therefore call on the Turkish authorities not to weaken the international system to protect women against violence put in place by the İstanbul Convention,” added the statement.

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