US President Joe Biden condemned Turkey’s withdrawal from an international treaty intended to protect women from violence.
He said the move was “deeply disappointing” and described it as a “disheartening step backward” in attempts to end violence against women. “Countries should be working to strengthen and renew their commitments to ending violence against women, not rejecting international treaties designed to protect women and hold abusers accountable,” The US president said in a statement on Sunday.
President Tayyip Erdogan pulled Turkey out of the Istanbul convention, a landmark European accord to protect women from violence, on Saturday. Turkey was the first country to sign the accord 10 years ago. The announcement sparked both domestic and international outrage. Hundreds of women gathered in Istanbul to protest against the move on Saturday.
The Istanbul Convention, signed by the Council of Europe, promised to prevent, prosecute, and eradicate domestic violence while also promoting equality. Turkey signed it in 2011, but femicide has increased in recent years in the country.
According to Turkey’s We Will Stop Femicide Platform, at least 300 women were killed in the country last year. The number may be even higher, according to the organization, because dozens more women have been discovered dead in suspicious situations.
Many leaders from international communities have also criticized Turkey’s withdrawal. Among them, The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Turkey was sending “a dangerous message across the world” about the rights of women. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter: “Women deserve a strong legal framework to protect them.”
To validate their reason behind the withdrawal, Turkey said the Istanbul Convention – which seeks to prevent, prosecute and eliminate domestic violence – was incompatible with its family values. The treaty had been “hijacked” by people trying to “normalise homosexuality”, according to them. But the Turkish government pledged that it “will not give up on its fight against domestic violence”.
Thousands of women demonstrated across Turkey on Saturday to voice their protest against the move. “Reverse your decision, apply the treaty,” chanted them during a protest in the Kadıköy neighbourhood on the Asia side of Istanbul.
“This is a political decision — and they are ignoring the rights of women and children for the sake of their own political benefits,” said one woman. It “is a means of protection for us,” another female protester said. “Now the government has paved the way for more violence.”
Istanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, one of Erdoğan’s main pollical rivals, tweeted that the decision “tramples on the struggle that women have been waging for years”.
At least 78 women have been killed or died in suspicious circumstances so far this year in Turkey. According to the World Health Organization, 38 percent of Turkish women have experienced violence from a partner in their lifetime, compared to 25 percent in Europe.