Attacks on the Istanbul Convention: The Ongoing Struggle for Women's RTights, March 23, 12:30- 2:30
Red Pepper Associations
Women in power and decision-making, The girl child, Women and the economy, Human rights of women, Education and training of women, Violence against women, Women and poverty, Women and the media
SDG5 – Gender Equality, SDG16 – Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Bullying (2016), Harassment (2016), Tolerance of Minority Groups (2016), Sexual Health and Reproduction Education (2019)
The session related to women's rights and thus a subject that permeates much of our work.
The Istanbul Convention is a human rights treaty of the Council of Europe. It was forged in Istanbul and signed on to in 2011. It was designed to prevent, prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and promote equality. As of March 2019 forty-five countries had signed on.

Suddenly on the weekend Turkey pulled out of this international accord. It was a tremendous shock to many Turks and to the international community. Today's session exposed the grave concern of women's rights workers in the country and world-wide. Withdrawal from a commitment to gender equality risked other countries following suite.

Several participants questioned the legality of the withdrawal. It had been approved unanimously by the 3 pillars of the government – Parliament, the Cabinet and the President. Apparently this was the President's decision and speakers said that by law the withdrawal would have to be ratified by Parliament, therefore the President' s recent action was null and void. It was a symbol of authoritarianism and several articles of the Constitution would render his action unlawful.

The convention had split the ruling party in Turkey. Officials floated pulling out last year amid a dispute over how to curb domestic violence in Turkey where germicide has tripled in 10 years. Many conservatives in Turkey and in Mr.Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AKP say the pact undermines family structures, encouraging violence. They said they had their own domestic laws, not outside fixes, that would protect women's rights. Some are also hostile to its position against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

A speaker from Poland expressed concern that her country was considering similar action and that Turkey's move could be influential. In Poland opponents to the Convention say that they would replace it with legislation more closely associated with family values – yet it is the conservative government and church saying this not the people.

Bulgaria too talked about an increase in domestic violence with most incidents not being reported. Yet it's government, not the people, is also considering withdrawing from the Convention.

These trends were of grave concern to the panelists. They urged the over 300 parallel session attendees to work with them. The resistance should be global. "Together we can crate a new and better world."
The timing of this session was extraordinary and added to the urgency and crucial nature of the topic.

A large movement must come forward to raise awareness and press the illegal nature of the withdrawal.

Author: Hally Siddons

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