As announced in March, Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention on the prevention of violence against women. It contradicted Turkish authority’s views on homosexuality.
On July 1, Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention on the prevention of violence against women. Turkey was the first country to sign the convention in 2011 which bears the name of its largest city. It is the first to get rid of it. This human rights treaty from the Council of Europe was signed by 45 countries.
The president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the withdrawal on March and the decision is now effective from July 1. Protests against the withdrawal were organized in the country.
On that day, the president presented the fourth National Action Plan to Combat Violence Against Women for the years 2021-2025. Regarding the decision to leave the convention, Erdogan stated that “our fight against violence against women does not start with the Istanbul Convention, nor will it end with our withdrawal from it“.
For Turkish authorities, the convention tries to legitimate homosexuality, which goes against social and family values in Turkey. On the other hand, the website of the Istanbul Convention mentions that “a number of religious and ultra-conservative groups have, in recent years, been spreading false narratives about the convention“.
The Istanbul Convention fights violence regardless of sexual orientation
The Istanbul Convention prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Article 4, already included in 2011 when Turkey signed, specifies that the implementation of the convention “shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as […] sexual orientation” which originates from the legal obligation in the European Convention on Human Rights. On the other hand, the Turkish plan rejects violence regardless of race, gender, religion or nationality, etc. But it omits the sexual orientation.
The countries that ratify the Istanbul Convention are engaged in enforcing laws and regulation to prevent and reduce violence against women. They are held responsible if they don’t respond to what they recognized as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination.
A Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) monitors the situation in each country that ratified the convention. In Turkey, the plan will only be monitored by provincial commissions now.
Lesbian, bisexual or transgender women vulnerable to “corrective rape”
The review of Turkey performed by GREVIO in 2018 pointed out that the country has implemented laws against domestic violence but still needed to act on all “forms of violence against women in a holistic and comprehensive manner“. In fact, it noted that Turkey focused “strongly on strengthening the institution of family” with “specific targets including the reduction of the divorce ratio, and the increase in the marriage ratio and in women’s fertility rates“.
But the group of experts acknowledged that the policies promoted a look at “women exclusively through the prism of marriage and motherhood […], of a woman as a married fertile woman“. It warned that it could “undermine the country’s endeavours to enhance women’s rights and equality“.
Moreover, the report notes that lesbian, bisexual and transgender women face high levels of prejudice and discrimination in Turkey. They were vulnerable to forced marriage or even what is called “corrective rape“.
- Kadına yönelik şiddetle mücadele, ancak toplumun tamamının iştirakiyle ve samimi katkısıyla başarıya ulaşabilir, Presidency of the Republic of Turkey, July 2021, Free access
- Questions and answers, Council of Europe, Free access
- Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, Council of Europe, 2021, Free access
- GREVIO Baseline Evaluation Report Turkey, Council of Europe, 2018, Free access