LONDON: UN experts have slammed Turkey for its decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women.
Dubravka Simonovic, UN special rapporteur on violence against women, was joined by Gladys Acosta Vargas, chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, in expressing deep regret over the decision by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to withdraw Turkey from the convection.
Violence against women is rife in Turkey, with campaign groups regularly organizing protests against what they perceive to be a society that forgives and forgets about domestic abuse. Experts worry that withdrawing from the 2011 convention will add to this trend.
“This decision to withdraw from such an important instrument is a very worrying step backwards. It sends a dangerous message that violence against women is not important, with the risk of encouraging perpetrators and weakening measures to prevent it,” said Simonovic.
“This decision weakens protections for women’s well-being and safety, and leaves them at further risk at a time when violence against women is surging all over the world,” she added.
“The Istanbul Convention is the most recent and detailed women’s rights instrument that, alongside the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Beijing Platform for Action, provide a roadmap for the elimination of gender-based violence against women and girls.”
Publicly available information has shown a steep rise in femicide in Turkey in recent years, with UN experts reiterating their call for Ankara to collect and analyze relevant data and establish a Femicide Observatory to prevent further offenses.
The UN experts said: “These instruments recognize gender-based violence against women as a human rights violation, and commit states to putting in place policies and legislation to eradicate it.”
They added: “The implementation of the Istanbul Convention alongside other international standards had resulted in positive changes at the national level.”
Turkey surprised many by leading the charge as the first state to ratify the convention in 2012, followed by 33 other countries.
The decision to withdraw was announced on March 20 by a presidential decree, without any debate in Parliament.
Vargas said: “We call on Turkey to reconsider this decision and to conduct consultations with academia, civil society organizations, parliament and society at large.”
The UN experts noted the increased risk of violence against women, particularly domestic violence, amid restrictions imposed to tackle COVID-19 in Turkey.