Recently the Istanbul Convention, a convention aimed to protect all women from discrimination and violence, was anulled in two countries: Poland and Turkey. The annulment caused many protests in Turkey and there are still protests happening in order to make women safe again. So, what is this convention and why would two countries annul it when it protects so many people?
The convention has been described as the “most comprehensive international convention” designed to protect women from violence by Amnesty International. It was signed in 2011 by 45 countries from all over Europe. It ensures the safety of all violence and abuse victims with particular attention to women. The convention is of special importance in Turkey because it is one of the only legal protections women in Turkey have. That brings us back to the question of why would Turkey annul a convention protecting an oppressed group that needs particular protection in that country.
There are a few possible reasons why this step might have been taken by the Turkish government. The Turkish government is highly patriarchal and their beliefs are built around old traditions and gender discriminative notions. If we also take the fact that being queer is a huge tabboo in Turkey into consideration, we can see that the annulment is not surprsing. The convention clearly supported women and protected them no matter what or how they lived. It also protected queer women,which was used as a means of justifying Turkey’s withdrawel from the convention by the government. The government’s beliefs clearly conflicted with what the convention was aiming to do.
When we look at the effects of the convention, we can see that it has been very beneficial in many countries. For example Finland has funded shelters for women that are victims of violence as a result of ratifying the convention. Other countries such as Albania, Serbia, and Montenegro have built national helplines as a result of entering the convention. Iceland, Sweden, Greece, Croatia, Malta and Denmark have ratified new laws that defines rape as sex without consent which is required by the convention. The law has resulted in lower numbers of prosecutions and higher numbers of convictions in Sweden. This clearly shows that the convention isn’t ineffective, so its annulment by Turkey still is not justifiable.
The main question is, how can this problem be solved? There is no other law in Turkey that protects women, especially including every single group of minority, this well. There is still a new victim on the news every single night. Women are trying to earn their rights back after hundreds of years by protesting non-stop. Why has the Turkish government done nothing? There needs to be a new solution. Maybe an even more inclusive law that has harsher penalties for the offenses that harm women and better protection for them. The government needs to step up and finally protect its people.