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The national action plan, which sets out the objectives in fighting violence against women for the next 5 years, presents the state’s political approach, besides the implementation targets. The IV. National Action Plan for Fighting Violence against Women announced by the President on July 1, 2021, the day that Turkey officially withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, draws attention primarily by not mentioning the Istanbul Convention at all. The phrase “Amendments will be made in the Constitution and in the relevant basic laws within the framework of international conventions and documents related to women’s human rights, especially the Istanbul Convention”, which was used in the main framework of almost every activity in the text of the action plan of the previous period, has been removed in this plan. The Convention is even removed from the history section that covers the international developments in fighting violence against women. When the two action plans are compared, another striking difference is that while the expression “gender equality” appeared 30 times in the previous action plan, this expression is not used at all in the new action plan. These differences are concrete indicators of how the political attitude against gender equality is reflected in policy documents which became obvious with Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.

On the other hand, this action plan seems to be a bit more inclusive and more specific in terms of targets compared to previous action plans. We can see that a strategy has been developed that specifies the actions to be carried out, the support to be offered and how it will be provided, and how all of this will be organized, rather than broad objectives. The Istanbul Convention is clearly viewed as the foundation for several things in the action plan, including the definition of violence. This situation shows once again how effective and fundamental the Istanbul Convention is in fighting violence against women, and that the decision to withdraw from the Convention is purely an ideological decision. This ideology is against the gender equality, as it aims to strengthen the family and fix the traditional gender roles of women, which became also evident by the fact that the term has been completely removed from the plan. An action plan that follows the Istanbul Convention as a guide but ignores gender equality, which is at the heart of the convention, is certain to fail, as it would fuel male domination, which leads to violence against women.

Problems in data collection, monitoring and evaluation constitute one of the main problems in this action plan. The most comprehensive research on violence against women in Turkey, Research on Domestic Violence against Women in Turkey, was conducted in 2014, and this action plan refers to this research as the newest data source. The fact that there is no mention of any data from ŞÖNİMs (Violence Prevention and Monitoring Centers), which have the task of coordination and data collection, shows that qualified data is not kept. In addition, the fact that there is no information on how much the objectives in the previous action plans have been achieved and no result on the impact analysis of their implementation shows that no impact measurement has been conducted in the last years as the most recent impact analysis was made in 2014 regarding the impact of the Law No. 6284, whose method and results were not shared with the public. Although the GREVIO and CEDAW monitoring reports were published after the previous action plan was announced, there is no reference to the assessments and recommendations in these reports.

This action plan does not include any assessment or recommendation regarding the conditions of women’s shelters and the deficiencies in the support that should be given to women in the shelters. While it is common knowledge that women are not provided with qualified and comprehensive social support in shelters, this issue was not mentioned in the plan. Instead, the plan contains the goal of “improving the efficacy of spiritual support and religious guidance services for women in shelters,” with the Directorate of Religious Affairs as the accountable organization, which is well-known for its discriminatory expressions against women.

The lack of a specialized hotline on violence against women, which is noted as a shortcoming in many national and international monitoring reports, has not been addressed. Currently ALO 183 provides services on various issues, including violence against women, as it serves as a call-center rather than an emergency hotline. However, the problems and possible suggestions are not included in the plan.

While issues with women’s access to legal abortion rights, particularly in public hospitals, have persisted for some time, there are also significant issues with women’s access to sexual health and contraception methods that are not addressed in the action plan.

One of the objectives in the action plan, which states “the effective implementation of the legislation by reviewing it and facilitating the victims’ access to justice” responds to the issues experienced in access to justice (especially to the problem of impunity), which are frequently mentioned in social media such as Twitter. We think that the efforts of women’s organizations, including Mor Çatı, that draw attention the problems in access to justice were effective in the preparation of this section. While saying so, there is no concrete recommendation about providing free legal support to women subjected to violence, regardless of their economic status. According to our knowledge and experience, this is one of the biggest obstacles in women’s access to justice, as they apply to the legal aid offices of bar associations.

Finally, we would like to emphasize that no effort was made during the drafting of the action plan to make use of the information and experience that we, as Mor Çatı, have gathered in our thirty-year struggle against violence against women. Although we can see the impact of our monitoring work and criticisms in the plan, women’s organizations working in the field should be directly involved in the process in order to create an effective action plan.

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