Turkey has pulled out of the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, a presidential decree said Friday, in the latest victory for conservatives in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing party.
The 2011 Istanbul Convention requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse, as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.
No reason was provided for the withdrawal, but officials in Erdogan’s governing AK Party had said last year the government was considering pulling out amid a dispute about how to curb growing violence against women.
Turkey had been debating a possible departure after an official in Erdogan’s party raised dropping the treaty in 2020.
Since then, women have taken to streets in Istanbul and other cities calling on the government to stick to the convention.
Domestic violence and femicide remain a serious problem in Turkey. Several women young and older have been reportedly murdered. In 2020, an estimated 300 women were murdered in Turkey according to the rights group We Will Stop Femicide Platform.
Erdogan’s decision came after he unveiled judicial reforms this month that he said would improve rights and freedoms, and help meet EU standards.
“The guarantee of women’s rights are the current regulations in our bylaws, primarily our Constitution. Our judicial system is dynamic and strong enough to implement new regulations as needed,” Family, Labour and Social Policies Minister Zehra Zumrut said on Twitter, without providing a reason for the move.
Conservatives had claimed the charter damages family unity, encourages divorce and that its references to equality were being used by the LGBTQ community to gain broader acceptance in society.
The opposition CHP party criticised the move. Gokce Gokcen, deputy chairman of the CHP responsible for human rights, tweeted that abandoning the treaty meant “keeping women second class citizens and letting them be killed”.
Turkey is not the first country to move towards ditching the accord. Poland’s highest court scrutinised the pact after a cabinet member said Warsaw should quit the treaty, which the nationalist government considers too liberal.
Erdogan has condemned violence against women, including saying this month that his government would work to eradicate violence against women. But critics have said his government has not done enough to prevent femicides and domestic violence.
Turkey does not keep official statistics on femicide. World Health Organization data has shown 38 percent of women in Turkey are subject to violence from a partner in their lifetime, compared with about 25 percent in Europe.
Last year, 300 women were murdered in Turkey according to the rights group We Will Stop Femicide Platform.
Ankara though has taken measures such as tagging individuals known to resort to violence and creating a smartphone app for women to alert police, which has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.
Turkey has been a candidate to join the bloc since 2005, but access talks have been halted over policy differences and Ankara’s record on human rights.