Turkish women fearful after treaty exit – report

Turkish women are fearful since Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, a council of Europe human rights treaty against violence against women, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report published on Wednesday.

Turkish women feel more vulnerable and legally unprotected since the withdrawal, women's campaign groups told AFP.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pulled Turkey out of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention on March 19, via an executive order published in the Official Gazette.

The move came after a months-long debate over whether Turkey should withdraw, with pro-government conservative and Islamist groups arguing against the convention, saying that it undermined Turkish family values and promoted homosexuality.

Erdoğan’s move led to months of demonstrations by thousands of women, and the Council of State received several legal appeals to suspend the president’s order. The appeals, all of which have since been rejected, came from opposition parties, bar associations and women’s organisations.

The withdrawal was finalised as of July, triggering heavy criticism from the international community, including the United States and the European Union. Turkey was the first signatory of the convention in 2011.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case of Nahide Opuz v. Turkey was among key incidents that led to the treaty, and Turkish law experts and campaigners were heavily involved in the drafting process.

There has been a jump in unexplained deaths in Turkey since it withdrew from the international treaty, AFP said, citing women’s rights advocates. The withdrawal also risked encouraging abusers, the campaigners told the news wire.

“This country is waking up to a woman's murder every day,” Nurşen İnal from the We Will Stop Femicide Platform said. “Turkey's departure from the Istanbul convention has encouraged male perpetrators.”

A total of 345 women have been killed since the start of the year, according to the platform. There were 410 women killed in 2020, with dozens found dead under suspicious circumstances, it added.

Turkey's withdrawal from the convention created a perception that male offenders can act with impunity, according to Berrin Sönmez from the Women's Platform for Equality. Sönmez cited one case where a convict expected to be released, since Turkey had withdrawn from the treaty.

“Between March and July 2021, 180 women were murdered. On top of that, there have been 171 suspicious deaths. This is not a justifiable number,” Sönmez said.

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