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Decision to withdraw from İstanbul Convention made months ago: AKP official

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A senior official from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Tuesday told BBC Turkish service that the AKP government started working on legal infrastructure to pull Turkey out of a landmark European treaty protecting women from violence as early as July 2020.

Through President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s overnight decree, Turkey on Saturday withdrew from the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe treaty to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence.

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

The process of annulling Turkey’s ratification of the convention took a long time due to the months-long work on how to convey the decision to the Council of Europe, the official said, adding that they took two previous decisions to annul the ratification of two other conventions in 2016 and 2018 as examples.

According to BBC, the two conventions taken as examples were the European Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehavior at Sports Events and in particular at Football Matches and the European Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport, which entered into force in 1985 and 2006, respectively. Turkey withdrew from the former in 2016 and the latter in 2018.

As for the reasons for Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, the official said it was because the treaty might create the result of “normalizing” homosexuality and that the expression “gender equality” frequently used in the convention might “pave the way for same-sex marriage.”

In the context of the convention, the term “gender” is said to also explain “socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men.”

“We say that family is the central pillar of society. But Europe says, ‘There are no families, only individuals.’ When you break the family into pieces, a third gender –- one between man and woman –- is revealed. When you accept that, you have to legally allow same-sex marriages and teach it in sex education classes, among many other problems,” the AKP official told BBC.

The decree announcing Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention was released soon after Erdoğan met with the leaders of smaller Islamist parties – the Felicity Party (SP) of the Milli Görüş movement and the conservative Kurdish HÜDAPAR – to talk about possible election cooperation.

The SP, which received 1.3 percent of the vote in the last elections, claimed that the convention was destroying family values and promoting homosexuality. The withdrawal was among the party’s foremost election promises.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Fenerbahçe sports club on Monday demanded in a written statement a review of the decision to pull the country out of the international treaty.

“We are sad to find out the decision to withdraw Turkey from the İstanbul Convention. As a sports club that … supports the HeForShe movement – carried out by the UN Women Unit (UN Women) – in order to create a bold and visible force for gender equality in sports, we are worried about the social results this decision might create,” the club said.

Following the decision, some lawyers claimed that the treaty was still in force, arguing that the president could not withdraw from it without the approval of parliament, which unanimously ratified the convention in 2012.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Tuesday made a statement claiming that Turkey was a “sovereign state that can sign and withdraw from any international agreement it pleases.”

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