Istanbul, women protests for the withdrawal of gender violence convention

Erdoğan announces plan to combat violence against women

The plan coincides with Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention against Gender Violence and protests by women in several cities.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan unveiled yesterday a new national plan to combat violence against women that includes new legal, administrative and political means to prevent and end gender violence; a plan that is announced to coincide with the formal withdrawal of Turkey from the Istanbul Convention against Gender Violence.

“Some circles try to show our withdrawal from the Convention as a step backward in our battle against violence against women. Our fight against violence against women did not start with this agreement, and it will not end when we withdraw from this agreement,” Erdoğan said during a ceremony held on July 1 at the Ankara presidential palace to present the Fourth National Action Plan to Combat Violence Against Women, attended by government and NGO representatives.

His words came on the same day that more than 10,000 activists from feminist and defence of women’s rights movements, amid a heavy police presence, demonstrated in Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir and in other large cities of the country for the withdrawal of the so-called Istanbul Convention, of which Turkey was the first country to ratify it in 2011.

The new action plan covers 28 strategies and 227 different measures from 2021 to 2025. The Turkish president insisted during the presentation that the first National Action Plan was presented in 2007, even before the existence of the Istanbul Convention, of which the The Turkish government considers that has been “kidnapped by groups that seek to promote homosexuality” and other ideas that are incompatible with the family and social values ​​of Turkish society.

“Violence against women must be left out of political discussions”

As Erdoğan explained, it is necessary “to address violence against women honestly and objectively, without turning it into a topic of political discussion.” “We need to address the issue honestly. Violence against women is a problem faced by all countries. We are trying to defeat it with legal regulations, and prevention and protection measures,” he said.

The plan can be summarised in several objectives, as explained by the Turkish president, including better access for women to the means and services at their disposal, the integration of the fight against gender violence in all policies, an increase in awareness and public information about the problem, and an adequate collection of all data on this issue.

Another primary objective of the new action plan will be to review current legislation and whether it is being applied effectively. In this regard, Erdoğan noted that all regulations regarding harassment against women, cyber violence and forced marriages will be reviewed. Public officials will also be trained on this issue, and an important measure was also announced: therapies to control anger and aggressiveness for those responsible for acts of gender violence, and for those who are at risk of committing them.

266 women were killed last year in Turkey

The plan also foresees, among other initiatives, the opening of 9 new shelters for women victims of violence in 7 provinces of the country, and measures to prevent sexual and physical violence in the workplace. Finally, an important point will be the collection of all the important data on this problem.

“It is important to establish what risk factors create violence. Violence risk maps will be drawn up in the 81 provinces, and the data obtained will be evaluated by NGOs and universities, and the ministries will create a joint database,” said Erdoğan. According to official data, only last year 266 women were murdered in the country, often at the hands of their husbands, relatives or boyfriends.

The need to combat violence against women in Turkey becomes clear if one takes into account that, during the first four months of 2021, 95 women have been murdered in the country, compared to 73 victims registered in the same period of 2020. Although most acts of violence or murders against women take place at home and the perpetrators are their husbands or partners, 15% were victims of their own relatives, or even their children.