Turkey withdraws from Istanbul convention to combat violence against women

The move has sent shock waves across a country ravaged by high-profile domestic violence and femicide cases.

It is unclear why Erdogan made the decision to withdraw from the convention. Turkish women’s rights defenders have protested the withdrawal, while some conservatives argue that it harms traditional family values.

The public debate surrounding the convention peaked in August when religious and conservative groups began lobbying heavily against the convention, lambasting it for worsening family values, and advocating for the LGBTQ community.

Erdogan’s cabinet came out to reassure people that withdrawing from the convention will not mean that rules on domestic violence and women’s rights will fall back. “The guarantee of women’s rights is contained in our current laws and especially in our constitution. Our judicial system is dynamic and strong enough to implement new regulations if necessary,” said the Minister for Family and Social Policy, Zehra Zumrut Selcuk, on Twitter.

Turkey’s main opposition described the move as an attempt to “banish women to second class citizens” and promised to return the country to the Convention. The current government has failed to secure the rights of women and children. “You cannot protect the right to life,” said Gokce Gokcen, an opposition MP on Twitter.

A coalition of women’s groups said the president’s resignation from the convention felt like a “nightmare” and by withdrawing from the convention the government has announced that it will no longer protect women from violence.

“It is obvious that this withdrawal will empower murderers, perpetrators and rapists of women,” the coalition statement said.

Femicide numbers are not issued separately in Turkey, but a non-governmental women’s rights group estimates the number of women killed in 2021 at 78.

Violence against women in Turkey is a “major human rights crisis” that is “escalating,” Turkish writer and women’s rights activist Elif Shafak told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Friday.