The final decision on the fate of the Istanbul Convention in Turkey is expected to be taken on Aug.18 during the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting to be held by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following the national debate over the necessity of the agreement.
The Istanbul Convention, which is the first legally binding document that forms a set of rules to prevent violence against women, has been a hot discussion topic in Turkey for a while now as the government proposes to replace it with a new version that is arguably more suitable to Turkish society and traditions. Many others argue that the convention is needed especially currently at a time when domestic violence and femicide are on the rise in the country.
Last week during the AK Party's 19th-year anniversary ceremony, Erdoğan said that the discussion should be brought to a conclusion and that Turkey was in need of a new convention unique to the country that would protect the family structure.
With this purpose in mind, both the Turkish presidency and AK Party have been conducting their own work on the issue, while relevant ministries have also contributed to the process.
According to AK Party sources, the new proposal would make no change to Law No. 6284 on Protecting the Family and Preventing Violence against Woman and instead, would allow this law to provide the basis for further protections for women.
The law was passed by the AK Party in 2012 as part of a comprehensive action plan to fight domestic violence and covers everything from the prevention of violence to the protection of victims.
It aims to provide women with a range of legal options and protection against domestic violence through expanded social service networks to monitor cases, anger management programs and family consultation services.
Around 320,322 preventative measures were taken in the first six months of 2020, a whopping 66% increase compared with the previous year.
Domestic violence claimed the lives of 932 women between 2016 and 2018 in Turkey. The country is striving to eradicate the disturbing phenomenon by increasing prison terms for perpetrators and promoting awareness campaigns denouncing violence against women, a product of a twisted patriarchal mindset. Forty women were killed in the first two months of 2020, according to the latest available data.
Originally named the "Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence,” the Istanbul Convention was first signed back on May 11, 2011, in Istanbul – with Turkey becoming the first country to ratify the document.
Turkey's move was soon followed by 33 others, including the European Union signing the convention in 2017.
The main premise of the convention is to outline the acts against women that need to be criminalized by the signatory countries, such as psychological violence, physical violence, sexual violence and sexual harassment.
Discussions over the convention in Turkey recently led to a massive global trend on social media, with Turkish women posting their pictures in black and white in an attempt to highlight violence against women in the country as well as the necessity of the convention.
The trend soon gained global attention, with many international celebrities also taking part.
According to Media Monitoring Center, a total of 24,300 news articles have been shared in Turkey on the topic since the beginning of 2020.
Turkey is followed by the United States as the country's media shared 2,800 articles on the convention in 2020 so far. Regarding the social media trend on the convention, the center stated that since July 1, 2020, when the trend was first started, more than 5 million posts had been published on the issue, 1 million of which were from abroad.
The main reason behind the government's attempt to drop the convention is the idea that it harms the family institution in Turkey, paving the way for more divorce.
Speaking at a "Family Congress" in Ankara last week, AK Party Deputy Chairman Numan Kurtulmuş said that protecting family means protecting society, which is why it is a crucial topic for the government.
"The family structure consisting of a man and a woman is the root of society since the creation of humanity," he said, adding that if the family could be maintained then other social problems could easily be solved.
It is also argued that the convention is ineffective in protecting women and aims to destroy the idea of gender by creating a third gender and promoting LGBT activism, which they claim contradicts the country’s morals and values.
Furthermore, according to a report presented to Erdoğan at an executive party meeting last month, there has been a significant increase in the number of divorce cases, which jumped from 202,017 in 2014 to 248,640 in 2019.
Despite the arguments, the convention in fact has no article on promoting either marriage or divorce. The convention also contains no articles on religion or culture, apart from forbidding signatory countries from discriminating against people based on their religious beliefs.
Similarly, although defining gender as a socially constructed role put on men and women, the convention makes a distinction between gender and sex and makes it clear that there is no intention to replace the terms "man" or "woman."
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