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19 countries’ embassies urge Turkey to reconsider exit from Istanbul Convention

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The Ankara embassies of 19 countries, including Canada, France, Germany, the US and the UK, have urged the Turkish government to reconsider its recent withdrawal from an international accord to combat domestic violence in a statement released to mark the 10th anniversary of the landmark treaty.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, is an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies and was opened for signature by Council of Europe member countries in 2011.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked outrage in Turkey and the international community after he issued the decree on March 20 that pulled the country out of the convention, which has been criticized by conservatives who argued that it damages family unity, encourages divorce and promotes homosexuality.

“There is no hidden agenda here – as sometimes is claimed – related to gender identity and sexual orientation. The Convention does not require an adaptation of national legal systems in that respect,” the embassies underlined in the statement titled “The Istanbul Convention: for a better future for all” on Monday.

Saying that they were saddened by the exit of Turkey, which they described as the first country to ratify the treaty and one of the strongest supporters during its creation in 2011, they added: “We would like to express our sincere hope that the Turkish government would reconsider its withdrawal decision.”

“Unfortunately, in Turkey, like in many other countries, violence against women has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reversing the decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention would help Turkey preserve a comprehensive framework to protect women,” they further said.

The embassies said gender-based violence must be acknowledged as a serious human rights violation that needs to be addressed accordingly. “National measures alone do not reach the same levels of protection as the Convention does,” they stated.

According to a presidential decree published in the Official Gazette, Turkey will officially withdraw from the treaty on July 1.

The We Will Stop Femicide Platform says more than 300 women were murdered by their families or partners in Turkey last year.

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