No need to withdraw from Istanbul Convention, says parliament speaker
The Istanbul Convention has contributed to Turkey’s struggle in eliminating violence against women and there is no need to withdraw from it, the Turkish parliament speaker has said, after a deluge of protests by women’s rights groups in the wake of comments made by a senior ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) official who last month said Turkey could withdraw from the international agreement.
“Turkey has taken many steps regarding [ending] violence against women and I believe the Istanbul Convention has contributed to that. I am of the opinion that there is no situation that will make it necessary to leave the convention,” Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop told reporters at a press conference on Aug. 6.
His comments came amid heated debates over the Council of Europe treaty as calls made by ultraconservative groups that the convention was “destroying familial values” were picked up by government officials, with AKP deputy chair Numan Kurtulmuş saying early July that signing the treaty in 2011 was a “mistake.”
Women across Turkey since spilled into the streets and continued their social media calls to implement the convention properly rather than withdraw from it.
“Neither arguments that suggest violence against women will increase if Turkey withdraws from the convention or violence against women will rise if Ankara doesn’t quit the convention are true,” he added.
But Şentop said the laws brought forth by the convention can be amended upon opposition to some of the aspects of the treaty. “If there are any backlogs or opposition against some aspects, these can be addressed through amendments in the laws,” he said.
“Some of the aspects in this [convention] are universal, I have no opposition to that. But some of its aspects belong to Western Europe’s culture. But Europe forces this paradigm upon the world as though they are universal,” he added.
Ultraconservative groups in Turkey had been deriding the Istanbul Convention as an agreement that eulogizes LGBTQI rights, which has been at the heart of the onslaught against the treaty.
Turkey was one of the first countries to sign and ratify in 2011 the convention, which specifically targets violence against women and obliges ratifying countries to prevent gender-based crime, provide adequate protection and services for victims and assure the prosecution of perpetrators.
Women’s rights groups and feminists believe the convention is a matter of life or death for them in a country where hundreds of women get murdered by violent men ever year. In 2020 so far, 211 women were killed by men, according to Anıt Sayaç, a website that keeps a tally of femicides.