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Turkey sets clock back 10 years on women’s rights, says Amnesty

Istanbul Convention

Demonstrators take part in a protest against Turkey's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, the world's first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, in Ankara, on July 1, 2021. Turkish president sparked outrage in March by pulling out of the Istanbul Convention. The 2011 pact, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to adopt legislation linked to the prosecution of crimes including marital rape and female genital mutilation. Adem ALTAN / AFP

Turkey has set the clock back 10 years on women’s rights by withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention and has also set a “terrifying precedent,” Amnesty International said in a press release on Thursday, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said the withdrawal, “sends a reckless and dangerous message to perpetrators who abuse, maim and kill that they can carry on doing so with impunity.” Callamard added that the “deplorable decision,” which becomes effective today, had become a rallying point for women’s rights all over the world.

On March 20 President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a decree withdrawing Turkey from the Council of Europe (CoE) Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies, sparking outrage in Turkey and the international community.

The Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, rejected an appeal demanding cancellation of the presidential decree that pulled out of the international treaty.

The Istanbul Convention was opened for signature during the CoE Ministers Committee meeting hosted by Turkey in 2011.

survey conducted by Metropoll has revealed that 52.3 percent of Turks are against the government’s decision to withdraw from the convention.

Prominent women in Turkey have campaigned against the decision to withdraw from the convention and thousands of women took to the streets to protest.

Gender-based violence is serious problem in Turkey. According to a report published earlier by Sezgin Tanrıkulu,  a human rights defender and Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker, nearly 7,000 women have been victims of femicide during the 18 years that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power.

Despite alarming data, Turkey withdrew from the convention instead of working for its better implementation because Turkish conservatives claimed the charter damaged family unity, encouraged divorce and that its references to equality were being used by the LGBT community to gain broader acceptance in society.

World leaders, including US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, international and regional organizations and rights groups have reacted negatively to Turkey’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention.

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