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Issue Arises: On Turkey’s Withdrawal from Istanbul Convention

Issue Arises: On Turkey’s Withdrawal from Istanbul Convention

By: Mikhael Bernand Harianja, Raissa Zandra Saraswati,​​ 

And​​ Zahra Audrey Padalas

Through the Presidential Decree issued on March 20th, Turkey’s government declared their withdrawal from the Council of Europe Convention that aims to prevent and protect women’s rights against violence.1​​ The withdrawal’s decision promptly received many protests from both women’s groups and many harsh social media critics. They argue that the withdrawal can cause a major impact on women’s rights protection for the incoming regulations.

There are many reasons covered due to the withdrawal. One of the most significant reasons is the pressure from the religious conservatives and various Muslim orders after viewing the Convention as an affront to national’s fundamental principle on the basis that it destroys Turkish tradition family values and promotes homosexuality.2

In the principle of international law,​​ an international convention or treaty is an agreement between different countries that becomes legally binding to a particular State when that State ratifies it. Signing does not make a convention binding, but it indicates support for the convention's principles and the country's intention to ratify it.3​​ In this case, however, the Istanbul Convention was ratified by Turkey in 2012, followed by another 11 European nations. The main purpose of the convention itself is to provide a unique legal instrument for protecting women against violence with coverage not only domestic, but other forms of violence against women, including​​ psychological and physical abuse, sexual harassment, rape, crimes committed in the name of so-called "honor," stalking, and forced marriage.

According to the fact, the existence of the Istanbul Convention bears a considerable impact on Turkey’s legislative drafting. One of the legal products created in accordance with the Istanbul Convention was Law No 6284 to Protect Family and Prevent Violence​​ against​​ Women. The Istanbul Convention indeed has a strong impact on the creation of regulations that protect women’s rights by providing bases to examine.​​ 

Here are a few regulations concerning the issue that would be discussed in this paper;​​ 

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

  • the Council of Europe's Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention)

  • Turkey's Constitution of 1982 with Amendments through 2017 (Art. 2)

 Pursuant to the principles contained in UDHR, it generally implies that girls and women and boys and men have the same right. Although the UDHR is not legally binding among nations, as its title suggests, universal – meaning it applies to all people in all countries around the world. The protection of the rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration has been incorporated into many national constitutions and domestic legal frameworks.4

However, the rights of women, including the principles of equality generally imposed by UDHR, are specifically enumerated and defined through the CEDAW and Istanbul Convention. Although Turkey might have officially exited from the Istanbul Convention, it, however, has ratified The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women back in 1985. However, many groups view Turkey's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention as a form of lacking dedication by the government to protect women's rights and equality principle any further.

 Turkey likewise ranks poorly on the gender equality index. This inequality is fueled by the high rate of femicides and domestic abuse in Turkey. According to the 2021 World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index, Turkey is ranked 133rd out of 156 countries, making the country lag from other European countries5. Many fear that by withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention, women's rights will further deteriorate, considering that the aim of the convention itself is to provide protection to violence against women and domestic violence.

 Moreover, the concern might emerge from the reason behind Turkey's withdrawal. Although it has not been confirmed, some Justice and Development Party (AKP) acknowledged that the withdrawal was conducted after several pressures and intense lobbying by the religious conservatives and Islamic Fundamentalists. However, this condition, in some way, did not align with Article 2 Constitution of Turkey. Article 2 describes Turkey as a nation that embraces secularism as one of its principles.​​ 6

 As defined by Cambridge Dictionary, Secularism is a belief that should not involve the ordinary social and political activities of a country. In this regard, the government of Turkey has conducted inclusiveness in operating on behalf of a certain group, instead of upholding secularism as one of the Principles that generally aim to serve people as a whole without considering their political ideology, economic interest, or religion.​​ 

Even though the existence of foreseeable direct effects due to Its exit, similar to any bold contradiction toward Turkey's constitutional law is absent. Many predict this withdrawal will cause women's rights to be deprived and gender equality will not be guaranteed under future lawmaking. Moreover, the fact that Turkey has already rank poorly in the gender equality Index, the decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention is surely considered imprecise.​​ 

DAFTAR PUSTAKA

International Law​​ 

​​ Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. (1969, May 22). UNTS. Article 34 (entered into force 1980, January 27) [VCLT]

​​ The 1982 Constitution of The Republic of Turkey (1982, November 7). Article 2. Parliament of The Republic of Turkey (2017 referendum).

Article​​ 

Commissioner for Human Rights. (2021, March 22). ​​ Turkey’s announced withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention endangers women’s right, Council of Europe Portal.​​ https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/turkey-s-announced-withdrawal-from-the-istanbul-convention-endangers-women-s-rights.

Aksoy, H. (2021, March 29). ​​ What lies behind Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention?. German Institute for International and Security Affairs.​​ https://www.swp-berlin.org/en/publication/what-lies-behind-turkeys-withdrawal-from-the-istanbul-convention.

​​ Vazques, Catalina. (2018). WHAT IS THE RELEVANCE OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS 70 YEARS AFTER ITS ADOPTION?. Amnesty International.​​ https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/universal-declaration-of-human-rights/#:~:text=The%20UDHR%20is%2C%20as%20its,constitutions%20and%20domestic%20legal%20frameworks.

​​ The Global Gender Gap Report 2021. World Economic Forum 2021.​​ https://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2021.

1

​​ Commissioner for Human Rights. (2021, March 22). ​​ Turkey’s announced withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention endangers women’s right, Council of Europe Portal.​​ https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/turkey-s-announced-withdrawal-from-the-istanbul-convention-endangers-women-s-rights.​​ 

2

​​ Aksoy, H. (2021, March 29). ​​ What lies behind Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention?. German Institute for International and Security Affairs.​​ https://www.swp-berlin.org/en/publication/what-lies-behind-turkeys-withdrawal-from-the-istanbul-convention.​​ 

3

​​ Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. (1969, May 22). UNTS. Article 34 (entered into force 1980, January 27) [VCLT]​​ 

4

​​ Vazques, Catalina. (2018).​​ WHAT IS THE RELEVANCE OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS 70 YEARS AFTER ITS ADOPTION?. Amnesty International.​​ https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/universal-declaration-of-human-rights/#:~:text=The%20UDHR%20is%2C%20as%20its,constitutions%20and%20domestic%20legal%20frameworks.​​ 

 

5

​​ The Global Gender Gap Report 2021. World Economic Forum 2021. https://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2021.

6

​​ The 1982 Constitution of The Republic of Turkey (1982, November 7).​​ Article 2. Parliament of The Republic of Turkey (2017 referendum).