Turkey’s Exit From Convention to Protect Women Triggers Protests

Thousands of people protested Turkey’s formal July 1 withdrawal from an international agreement that seeks to prevent violence against women, condemning a move they say is ultimately intended to appease pious conservatives who support the president.

After the nation’s top administrative court endorsed a March political decision to leave the treaty, riot police late Thursday fired tear gas and prevented demonstrators from marching to Istanbul’s Taksim Square, a symbolic destination for rallies. Protests were also held in several other cities.

The Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention was signed in 2011 in the biggest city in Turkey in an attempt to offer women greater protection, especially from domestic violence. Turkey tops OECD rankings for violence against women, with 38% reporting being attacked at least once in their lifetime.

Last year, 300 women were murdered and a further 171 deaths were reported as suspicious in Turkey, according to human rights group We Will Stop Femicide Platform.

But the convention also calls for non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, which some conservative Turks -- who typically back President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted government -- see as promoting homosexuality. Critics of Turkey’s move say Ankara withdrew to end the legal protection the convention provides to the LGBT+ community.

Turkey’s Exit From Convention to Protect Women Triggers Protests

“We aren’t giving up on the Istanbul Convention,” women’s advocacy group Mor Cati said in a statement. “This is a clear expression that Turkey won’t show the political will to combat violence against women.”

Erdogan, speaking Thursday at a conference on preventing such attacks, said his decision to leave the treaty wouldn’t erode women’s rights or encourage their mistreatment.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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