Women in Turkey held a mass protest on Saturday Mar. 27 against the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to withdraw the country from an international treaty preventing violence against women.
The treaty, known as the Istanbul Convention, is aimed at preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence, by protecting victims and prosecuting accused offenders. It creates a comprehensive legal framework and approach to combat violence against women.
It is a legally binding Council of Europe agreement signed by 45 countries and the European Union. Turkey was the first country to ratify the convention in 2012, and the convention came into force in 2014.
After Erdogan issued the midnight decree – or presidential decree – to withdraw from the treaty on Friday Mar. 19, protesters have been taking to the streets in protests, holding signs saying “Istanbul Convention saves lives” and “We don’t accept one man’s decision.”
The Council of Europe said Turkey’s withdrawal from the treaty was “deplorable because it compromises the protection of women in Turkey, across Europe and beyond,” the New York Times reported.
Statistics from Turkey’s We Will Stop Femicide Platform showed that there were at least 300 femicide cases in 2020, with most of the women murdered by their partners. An additional 171 more women were found dead under suspicious circumstances in the same year, according to the platform.
Several groups including women’s rights activists, lawyers, and the opposition have criticized Erdogan’s decree, claiming the president cannot legally pull away from a convention ratified by the parliament, according to CNN.
The Turkish presidency said in an official statement that it decided to withdraw because “the Istanbul Convention, originally intended to promote women’s rights, was hijacked by a group of people attempting to normalize homosexuality – which is incompatible with Turkey’s social and family values,” the Independent reported.
Erdoğan has insisted that the withdrawal was completely legal, and the decision “by no means denotes that Turkey compromises on the protection of women,” according to Anadolu Agency.