BY HILAL KAPLAN
COLUMNS MAR 26, 2021
Passengers are seen leaving a ferry during a partial lockdown against the COVID-19 pandemic, Istanbul, Turkey, March 7, 2021. (Photo by Getty Images)
The Istanbul Convention was opened for signature at the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe held in Istanbul on May 11, 2011. Then Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu signed the convention on behalf of the Republic of Turkey, however, a decade later Turkey pulled out of the convention.
What is the reason behind Turkey’s recent decision? We can narrow it down to three main objections.
First of all, femicide in Turkey has doubled since the Istanbul Convention was signed and the relevant law came into effect. According to the World Bank data, the rate of femicide per 100,000 women is 0.9%. Although we are in the same category as Germany, and better than some EU countries such as Austria (1%) or Belgium (1.4%), the situation in Turkey is the opposite of the desired result the country had when signing.
Moreover, the contract caused a problematic loophole as it enables men (usually the husband) to be removed from his home and detached from his children for a period of a minimum of three months and a maximum of up to a year. A great number of men were suspended from their homes without any evidence.
Hence, there were certain malfeasances. For instance, two sisters who lost their money due to fraud and feared their father’s reaction accused their father of abusing them and he was consequently imprisoned in accordance with the convention. Even though they admitted that they had slandered their father during the court process, the family was irreversibly damaged. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of such examples that appeared in the Turkish media.
In addition, some of the articles of the convention are written in a feminist-queer lexicon, which would lead to irreconcilable differences with the Turkish family institution. Those articles would also have exposed students to LGBT discourses under the name of “gender equality” in classes. As the Polish justice minister said, “We are asked to educate young people that gender is something people can choose as they please. The LGBT community is trying to impose their own gender understanding through the Istanbul Convention. We cannot accept this.”
Thus, Turkey withdrew from the agreement due to its objections just like other states namely; Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. Turkey decided to side with other members of the Council of Europe that did not sign the convention, such as; the U.K., Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova, Liechtenstein and Armenia.
Somehow, U.S. President Joe Biden only criticized Turkey for its withdrawal, calling the decision “disappointing.” What’s “disappointing” is the Biden administration’s inability to protect female citizens keeping in mind that the U.S. femicide rate is 2.5 times higher than in Turkey.
It is important to remember that before the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government there were only eight women’s shelters across Turkey. The party increased this number to 145 nationwide. Today, there are centers in every province where women who are victims of violence can receive free psychological and legal support with their children. Besides, the Interior Ministry launched an application called KADES, which notifies the police of the location of women who think they may be exposed to violence for immediate intervention. Since the Electronic Monitoring Center was established two years ago, the whereabouts of the men who were ordered to be suspended are monitored 24/7 by the state.
As you can see, Turkish women are not left unprotected just because Turkey decided to pull out of the Istanbul Convention. Even if Turkey chose to stay, it would not have meant an end to femicides as they are unfortunately happening all over the world. Our struggle will continue to force the AK Party government to do better within the framework of our laws. However, we should refrain from attention-seeking writers like Elif Şafak, or Shafak, who falsely claim that more than three women are murdered in Turkey every day.