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Culture > News

Feminism and Femicides: Turkey Withdraws From Istanbul Convention

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

With remarkably high cases of femicides nationwide, what once was the first country to sign the Istanbul Convention—the comprehensive international agreement acknowledging violence against women—Turkey, announced on March 20, 2021, that it has withdrawn from the agreement that bears the name of its largest city. 

Formally known as the Council of Europe: Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, the Istanbul Convention is one of the most established and clear documents of contemporary times. It explicitly states that women cannot ever be equal to men as long as they experience gender-based violence—such as rape, sexual harassment, physiological harassment, stalking, genital mutilation and other unacceptable justification for crimes—and that without proper international legislation this goal will never be achieved. Introduced in 2011, with now over 40 signatory states who have ratified it, it was a great step toward the advancement of international equality for women—and, in most western countries, those who do not identify as male—because it recognizes these as human rights.

cardboard sign being held up that says “Fight Today For A Better Tomorrow”
Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels
Turkey has had over 400 femicides in 2020, with an organization called We Will Stop Femicides claiming that more women who were found dead under suspicious circumstances are most likely an addition to that number. To date, in 2021, 78 women have been killed in Turkey, but given that it does not keep official statistics on femicides, it is not clear whether the rate of violence toward women has diminished in the past decade. Nonetheless, until now, Turkish participation in the agreement was representative of its support toward ending this violence. As a result of the withdrawal, many, mostly women, have gone out to the streets to protest their government’s decision; whereas men, for the most part, claim that this is a step in the right direction toward maintaining traditional family values and standards. Many organizations say that this move empowers those who commit these actions toward women and that this is reversing a decade’s worth of work toward gender equality in the country. 

While the reason why President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made such a decision is not absolutely clear, it is believed that he made this decision based on talks with his own group of advisors. The Turkish government explains that gender-based violence in the country is not on the rise, which citizens have questioned because various reports prove otherwise, as does their daily experience. Ministers and other government officials have come out to say that they are committed to combating the issue independently from the Istanbul Convention. Many world leaders and international coalitions have criticized this action and are calling it a human rights crisis. Marija Pejcinovic Buric, the secretary-general of the 47-nation Council of Europe has denounced Turkey’s decision as “devastating.” 

In terms of gender-based violence anywhere and everywhere, intersectionality has proven to be a key player, resulting in women who are part of underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities being more at risk of experiencing this type of violence. Recently, in the United States, we have seen how it has played a role in the shootings at three local spas in Atlanta that took place on March 16. A man committed a massacre that killed eight people, seven women and one man, which is believed to have been driven by both, his racist notions against Asian Americans as well as his misogynistic values against women in the way he interacts with them. He referred to the women who worked at these spas as a “temptation” which has ultimately led the public to understand that he had sexualized ideas of them, which was essentially what led him to commit the hate crime. 

Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention represents an extremely detrimental path for the continuous fight toward the achievement of gender equality. This can cause a domino effect by inspiring other nations into following in its footsteps and dropping out of the agreement, as many Turkish feminist activists have declared, is a human rights crisis. Gender-based violence is a worldwide phenomenon that is rooted in the ancient patriarchal values of societies, and the way to put a stop to it is through education and ending the generational chain that passes down these concepts of gender roles. After all gender-based violence is only one side effect of the greater issue of gender inequality as a whole. 

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Cynthia is a senior working toward obtaining a degree in International Relations, and two minors in Geography and Economics from Florida State University. She loves to watch historical documentaries, read, and cook in her spare time. You can also find her outside exploring nature or inside spending time with family and friends, and occasionally imagining a life in the South of France.
Her Campus at Florida State University.