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Opposition slams AKP over bid to push heavier penalties for violence against women

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Opposition members of Turkey’s parliament have criticized a bill proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) introducing harsher punishment for violence against women, branding it as a band-aid solution aiming to save face after the government’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty to combat violence against women, Turkish media reported on Wednesday.

Parliament’s Justice Committee on Wednesday approved the bill floated by the AKP that stipulates heavier punishments for violent crimes committed against women and healthcare workers.

“The political will that withdrew us from the Istanbul Convention is now pushing for [a bill] that does not include any proactive measures, that is not even useful as a band-aid and would only make things worse,” Ayhan Eren, an MP from the opposition Good (İYİ) Party, said during the 13 hours of deliberations in the parliamentary committee.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked outrage in March 2021 by pulling out of the treaty, a decision that officially came into force on July 1 and has drawn condemnation from world leaders, including US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and international and regional organizations and rights groups, in addition to prompting protests across the country.

“You were at a loss after pulling out of the Istanbul Convention,” Turan Aydoğan from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said.

“You abandoned women and children that day. You left [victims of] gender-based violence unprotected,” he added.

Women’s rights platforms also criticized the bill, with many arguing that the push for harsher punishments won’t solve the issue and that proactive measures and support for victims are needed.

Despite increasing criticism from prominent figures, opposition leaders and the international community, the Turkish government has insisted that violence against women and femicide are not political discussions.

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