U.N. urges Turkey to reverse decision cancelling women’s rights accord

The United Nations urged Turkey to reverse a decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty aimed at preventing violence against women.

Implementation of domestic legislation protecting women from abuse “had been weakened” by Turkey’s decision to cancel the accord, said Reem Alsalem, U.N. Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls.

Perpetrators had been emboldened by the decision, effectively leaving victims at increased risk of violence, Alsalem said in a statement on Wednesday, following a visit to Turkey.

Turkey withdrew from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, in July last year. Pro-government conservative and Islamist groups argued that the convention undermined Turkish family values and promoted homosexuality. Turkey’s withdrawal sparked heavy criticism from its Western allies and led to protests across the country.

Around one in four women in Turkey has suffered physical or sexual abuse by their partners, according to latest official data from 2014, and there are likely hundreds of femicides every year, Alsalem said.

At least 339 women were killed by men in Turkey last year, according to news website Bianet’s Male Violence Monitoring Report. In 2021, deaths of women at the hands of men rose to the highest level since Bianet’s annual monitoring began in 2010.

In some cases, women were killed despite having obtained restraining orders intended to protect them, according to Human Rights Watch’s 85-page report “Combatting domestic violence in Turkey: The deadly impact of failure to protect,” published in May.

Increasing economic hardship in Turkey and the cost of hosting millions of refugees have compounded the problem, Alsalem said.

“No society can truly prosper unless its women and girls enjoy equality and freedom from violence,” she said.

“All stakeholders I met agreed that violence against women and girls has no place in Turkish society. Türkiye must therefore translate this belief into practice, by tackling impunity and prioritising the issue of violence against women and girls at the highest levels,” Alsalem said.



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