WAVE's statement regarding Turkey's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention
The European Network of Women Against Violence (WAVE) expresses deep concern and condemns the decision of the President of Turkey to withdraw from the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention.
On March 20, 2021, the President of Turkey signed Presidential Decree No. 3718 on withdrawal from the Convention. The decree was published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Turkey at 02:00 local time.
Such actions represent a major step backwards, especially at a time when consolidated international action and commitment to end violence against women is more important than ever. While the level of violence against women and girls around the world has reached a new level due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is extremely important to ensure that women's lives are protected from violence. Mobility restrictions, isolation and economic insecurity increase women's vulnerability to domestic violence in Europe and around the world. Many women have been forced to stay at home with their abusers around the clock, without breaks or access to support services, whose services have also been affected or unavailable due to the pandemic.
In Europe, which emphasizes guaranteeing the protection of human rights for all people, and recognizes the need to protect the rights of women and their children who are victims of violence, it is unacceptable that political will is placed above human rights, and that state actors can simply "opt out" ” from the commitment to combat violence against women.
Together with other European and international subjects, the WAVE network calls on Turkey to reconsider its withdrawal from the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
The Istanbul Convention is the first legally binding document that creates a comprehensive legal framework and approach to combating violence against women that aims to prevent violence, protect victims and bring perpetrators to justice. The relevant standards are based on the standards established in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Convention), as well as General Recommendations and judicial practice.
The Convention establishes minimum standards and measures that States must take to respond effectively to incidents of violence against women and emphasizes the obligation of States to diligently prevent, investigate, punish and provide reparation for all acts of violence against women. Relevant aspects are also highlighted in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, for example in the case "Opuz against Turkey" from 2009. The European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 2 (right to life), Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights . Opuz v. Turkey is a landmark decision because it was the first time the Court ruled that gender-based violence was a form of discrimination against women and that Turkey had a positive obligation to protect women's right to life. Upholding the positive obligation to protect women from violence involves, among other things,
political obligations of the state to comply with international and European instruments that protect women and their children from violence, such as the Istanbul Convention.
Turkey's decision to withdraw from the Council of Europe's Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence is devastating, given that violence against women and the killing of women in Turkey is growing. Moreover, the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women since the outbreak of the pandemic, with reports of violence against women, domestic and sexual violence, and femicide having increased dramatically. The protection of women's rights and the fulfillment of international obligations should not be left to the political discretion of the state, but should be considered as an international obligation.
The WAVE network, representing 160 women's NGOs in Europe, joins the Council of Europe, UN Women and other international actors in calling on the Government of the Republic of Turkey to continue to protect and promote the safety and rights of all women and girls, while upholding the commitment to fully implement the Convention .