Pro-gov’t rector says Istanbul Convention paves way for incest

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The rector of an İstanbul university believed to be close to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has explained his opposition to an international treaty against domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, with the claim that the treaty paves the way for incest.

The controversial remarks from Professor Nevzat Tarhan, rector of the private Üsküdar University, came on Wednesday during a session of a parliamentary committee investigating domestic violence.

Tarhan was among a number of academics who exchanged views with committee members about ways to stop domestic violence, improve women’s rights and achieve a society based on gender equality.

During the discussions lawmakers from the opposition parties said Turkey should re-adopt the Istanbul Convention, from which it announced its withdrawal in March, to achieve all these goals.

“If we are to make such a decision [re-adopting the Istanbul Convention], if we want to pave the way for incest, go ahead. This is what awaits us in the future if we make such a decision about cultural change in the society. This is what I am trying to say,” said Tarhan, attracting harsh criticism from the opposition party deputies.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Gamze Taşcıer said she was familiar with Tarhan’s reactionary views targeting women. She recalled an earlier statement by Tarhan, who said 47 out of every 100 university students in Turkey are female and that this was a result of their opposition to marriage.

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 to signature by member countries of the Council of Europe in 2011.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked outrage in Turkey and the international community after he issued a decree on March 20 that pulled the country out of the international treaty, which requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

Conservative circles mainly claim that the Istanbul Convention has destroyed families by introducing “foreign terminology” to traditional Turkish values and the law.

Violence against women and femicide are serious problems in Turkey, with daily media coverage of the issue.

In 2020, 300 women were murdered, and the rate shows no sign of slowing, with 79 women killed in the first three months of 2021, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform.

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