UN rights expert Reem al-Salem has warned Ankara that its decision to ditch the Council of Europe Convention on Protecting and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence would significantly set back efforts to tackle the issue.
Widely known as the Istanbul Convention, the treaty was opened for signatures in 2011. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided in March 2021 to pull out Turkey of the landmark international treaty on women’s rights and the decision came into effect on July 1.
According to the latest available government figures from a 2014 survey, around one in four women in Turkey has suffered physical or sexual abuse by their partners and al-Salem feels that pulling out of the pact risks Turkey backtracking its human rights obligations now that when much progress has been made towards advancing gender equality and ending violence against women and girls.
She had just concluded a 10-day visit to Turkey where she met with ministers, government-affiliated institutions, civil society representatives, and trade unions, and her full report to the Human Rights Council is expected in June 2023.
Highlighting that such issues have been seriously underreported in Turkey due to the lack of confidence in its protection mechanisms, the widespread impunity, and the gender-related discrimination and bias, al-Salem added that there are also likely hundreds of femicides every year.
She emphasized that the important legal and policy reforms to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls that Turkey has made do not correspond, however, to the gravity of the situation and fall short of its full capacity, potential, and responsibilities to protect women and girls living on Turkish soil.
Al-Salem noted that the effectiveness of Turkey’s initiatives to tackle violence against women and girls has been hampered by the lack of reliable disaggregated data, inadequate shelters, and a lack of access to them.
Noting that almost all stakeholders unequivocally recognize the bearing the Istanbul Convention has had on combating violence against women, the UN expert called on Ankara to reconsider its decision and to dedicate more resources to addressing harmful social and cultural norms.