We have been witnessing that attacks on the Istanbul Convention are increasing gradually. These increased attacks on women’s acquired rights in recent years indicate the intensity of anger and hatred towards women being free and equal individuals.
The Istanbul Convention, which is a treaty that Turkey has been boasting about being the first country to sign and ratify for years, describes how to combat violence against women effectively and explains its basic principles in plain language. The reason why the text of the Convention is so inclusive, clear and detailed is that it was written by women for women. The text is based on the experiences of feminist women who have been combating violence against women for years, witnessing the experiences of women and learning from them, seeing different manifestations of violence in every woman’s life, and the obstacles that women face when they try to avoid violence. Since the mid-70s what needs to be done to combat violence against women in global and local contexts has been debated; while women’s organizations have accumulated and shared their experiences, states have been making laws and establishing necessary mechanisms. The distinctive feature of the Istanbul Convention is that it does not represent the protection of women as the only solution to violence, but it remarks that violence is preventable.
The Convention could be summarized with the 4 Ps approach
1- Prevention of violence through sustained measures that address its root causes and aim at changing attitudes, gender roles and stereotypes that make violence against women acceptable;
2- Protecting women and girls who are known to be at risk and setting up specialist support services for victims and their children (shelters, round-the clock telephone helplines, rape crisis or sexual violence referral centres);
3- Prosecuting the perpetrators, including enabling criminal investigations and proceedings to continue, even if the victim withdraws the complaint;
4- Adopting and implementing state‐wide “integrated policies” that are effective, coordinated and comprehensive, in that they encompass all relevant measures to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women.
As can be understood from the summary above, the Istanbul Convention requires states to offer a holistic response to violence against women..The attacks on the Convention are also aimed at this holistic approach. The discourse on “traditional family structure and values” is in fact an opposition to a system in which women have the right to stay away from violence and in which the state creates mechanisms, makes laws and penalties in favor of women.
As the groups opposing the Istanbul Convention cannot openly say “men have the right to beat women and to use violence against women”, they are trying to cause a public misperception by claiming that the Convention jeopardizes the traditional family structure. In the family structure referred to here, women are oppressed by men, they are deprived of their rights, they don’t have the right to say no to their husbands and even when they are subjected to violence by their husbands they have to bear with it because “he is the husband”. We believe that the majority of society is against this mentality and therefore, everyone must fight against it.
Fighting violence against women is only possible by fighting against any discrimination. Thus, the article 4/3 of the Convention charges the governments with the responsibility to ensure the measures are imposed without discrimination on any ground such as sex, gender, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, state of health, disability, marital status, migrant or refugee status, or other status. We are witnessing that this act against discrimination is stigmatized so that a possible withdrawal from the Convention can be justified through false claims, such as it “undermines the traditional family values” or “promotes homosexuality”. These false narratives distort facts and manipulate society and encourage human rights abuses.
The attacks on the Istanbul Convention are not as ‘authentic’ and national as it is claimed!
Those who are opposed to the Istanbul Convention are imitating each other by adopting the same arguments. The adoption of common arguments by conservatives in Central Europe and Turkey also proves that it is not the question of “authentic, national, our values” but misogyny. In Turkey, we are observing with deep concern the manifestation of misogynistic efforts on a governmental level and the debate of the possible withdrawal from the Convention which they have already signed and ratified.
Fighting violence against women is the duty of the state towards women. Withdrawing from a convention on how to fight against violence is a declaration of not being on the side of women. We have seen that Turkey is far from implementing the obligations required by the Convention and we have shared and we will continue to share our observations with the public. These deficiencies are also stated in the report prepared by GREVIO (Group of Experts on Action against Women and Domestic Violence) in October 2018.. Considering these, it is not hard to tell that claiming “necessary precautions will be taken to prevent violence against women despite the withdrawal from the Convention” is far from reality and an excuse to leave women alone, facing violence.
As an organisation that has been fighting violence against women for 30 years, we say this again: we defend the Istanbul Convention because we are on the side of women and we are against the violence. We invite everyone who shares these values to read and understand the Convention and to spread their knowledge to fight against the misogynistic false narratives hiding behind the lies. The Istanbul Convention is not only for women but for everyone who dreams to live as equal individuals in a world free from violence. Everyone must fight against this backlash.
It is the state’s responsibility towards women to create and operate the necessary mechanisms in fighting violence against women. We invite the government to recall its responsibilities, to fight against misogynistic discourse and let alone debating the possible withdrawal from the Convention, to implement the Convention as it should.