In a shocking move, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has withdrawn his country from an international Convention to protect women from domestic violence. Interestingly, the Convention by the Council of Europe had been dubbed the Istanbul Convention when Turkey became the first country to sign it in 2012.

Erdogan issued a decree early on Saturday to Turkey’s ratification of the Convention that advocates equal rights for men and women, something many conservative groups in the region feel undermines traditional family values. Moreover, the Convention requires member States to prevent gender-based violence against women and ensure justice for victims.

In fact, many believe that Erdogan is trying to pacify the more hardline groups in the country to ensure their support for his regime. Turkey has always prided itself for achieving the right balance between modern and traditional values, but in wake of growing fundamentalism, Erdogan appears to have chosen to side with the hardline groups in order to retain power.

The controversial move has generated an outcry from women and feminist groups across the world. The United Nations released a statement urging Turkey to continue to defend women’s rights and grant them protection from violence. It offered chilling statistics to showcase just how wide spread the problem is in the country, “In Turkey, according to the latest National Research on Violence against Women from 2014, 38 percent of ever-married women have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. In its most extreme form, and often as the final act on a continuum of violence, hundreds of women are murdered every year. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a further escalation of violence against women and girls around the world, due to restrictions of movement, social isolation, and economic insecurity.”

The statement further said, “We are concerned that Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention would undermine the significant efforts invested so far to prevent and combat violence against women and may hinder progress towards further strengthening of national legislative, policy and institutional frameworks. We urge the Government of the Republic of Turkey to continue protecting and promoting the safety and rights of all women and girls, including by remaining committed to the full implementation of the Istanbul Convention.”

*Feature image courtesy Norbert Nagel via Wikimedia Commons.