We Will End Femicide Platform’ announced the annual report of Turkey and in 2020, 300 women in Turkey were murdered and 171 women’s dead found suspicious. In the same year, the President of the Assembly of Turkey opened the Istanbul Convention which is (security for protecting women from violence) on discussion, and the influences spread across the country with protests. But what exactly does the convention contain and what were the objections? 

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In July 2020, a discussion started by the President of the Assembly of Turkey about abolishing the convention. On a TV show, he simply claimed the convention could be abolished as easily as it was signed if it does not serve the country. Considering the number of femicides in Turkey, his intervention took public attention and polarized the country between the supporters and the conservatives who want to either fully abolish or question some of the articles. On the governmental side, there were ideas centered around the convention holding risks towards the traditional family structure of Turkey; and the opposite side followed the fact that the convention protects all individuals who are potential victims of violence. The big majority of the civil society, NGOs, and women organizations protest the idea of abolishing the convention due to possible revisions on violence against women. Starting from Turkey, the subject is gathering international attention so it is crucial to understand the benefits and directives that are covered in the convention. 

What is the Istanbul Convention?

The convention was structured in 2011 by the involvement of the United Nations and signed by Turkey in 2014 as one of the first countries. By 2020 the Convention is signed by 45 countries and the European Union, to seek the rights of women who are victims of violence in their household; and to structure the support mechanisms and responsibilities of the states. The text does not only cover the women’s vulnibiliatrty but also all the gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination cases. Therefore it can undoubtedly be applied to LBTIQ+ individuals. The convention is the most comprehensive text in this field, and the implementations are monitored by an independent expert group called GREVIO.

There are 12 chapters and four main subject elements as follows: prevention of violence against women and domestic violence; prosecution of the perpetrators, punishing the perpetrators and implementing the holistic policies that are fighting against domestic violence and cooperating with the victims. 

The claims against the Convention

In the case of Turkey, the encounters claim that the convention is against religion; it raises the numbers of divorces, and it is inoperative for reducing the violence the numbers did not drop after the convention was signed.  More speculative claims supporting the ideas like the convention is an involvement of external powers in domestic issues, it financially suppresses and victimizes the men, and encourages homosexuality. 

There are countless arguments of politicians and conservative public figures against the convention. The misinformation and the polarization across the country manipulated public opinion. 

What does the Istanbul Convention contain?

In the first chapter of the convention, there is a clear list of the purposes. Mainly they are centered around targeting the violence, protecting the victim, and cooperating with the law-enforcement officers. Importantly, in the first chapter, there are definitions of all mentioned concepts such as violence against women, domestic violence, gender, and victim. Following the responsibilities of the authorities including the demands for gender-sensitive policies and compressive researches on the related topics are suggested. 

In the second chapter, it is emphasized that the states should construct such laws and orders to embrace the victims’ rights and provide financial background for such implementations. To prevent misinformation and speculative discourse, the convention has a clear standpoint. To secure trustworthy background information, there must be organizations and institutions to collect the data from the field. Also, the sides should provide the reasons behind the violent events and the influences on them as well as the precautions for implementation of the convention. Hence it is suggested that there must be demographic questionnaires to announce the results for public use.

In the third chapter, it is mentioned that the old school and stigmatized women and men roles should be questioned to remove the influences of the verbal rules. To provide these, the states should introduce new implementations in several fields such as education. Hence it is clear in the convention that in any final decisions, such moral rules cannot be shown as an excuse or extenuating reasons for punishing the violence. 

Sexual and physical violence is defined by details. There is a strong emphasis on protecting the victim and supporting them to obtain their financial independence. It is likely to happen in Turkey among the state authorities, they favor the maintenance of the marriage and encourage the families to have peace, therefore they finalize the violence cases by an ineffective verbal consent. These kinds of interventions are far away from any solutions, and they even encourage further damage. At this point, the convention secures full protection and monitoring the incidents until there is a just punishment. 

The fair judgment is not in the hands of a certain segment. As specified in the convention, there is an initiative called GREVIO that collects the experts from different specialties and areas to maintain the decisions of the convention. This leads to a fair understanding of the decision-making process and ensures to conduct a fair judgment on cases. In the GREVIO there is a fair distribution of nationalities and expertise in different areas. Additionally, the candidates should be experienced in working for protecting the rights of victims who encounter gender-based violence. 

The recent KONDA research shows Turkish society has very little knowledge about the convention. However, the big majority disagree with the well spread Turkish statement “Men could beat and love at the same time”. It is for sure that a considerable majority in all segments of society wishes to end such violent incidents. However, the subjects that are discussed at the Istanbul Convention show that the speculations of the authorities are not comprehensive to bear more beneficial actions. 

Why is the Istanbul Convention so important to keep?

One critique against the convention came on the side of traditional family supporters. It is a widespread discourse that the convention leads to breaking the family concept apart, and causes chaos in the demographics. Especially in countries like Turkey, there is a big influence of verbal rules (or moral law) on family structures. In the majority of rural inhabitants and poorly educated segments of the society, it is easy to witness that the moral law of the family divides on serious decisions such as birth, abortion, marriage, divorce as well as being unconcerned about domestic violence. These speculative rules could be misleading for securing the individual’s rights and end in disfavoring the victims’ side. 

As might be expected, domestic violence and its subjects are likely to be in the invisible areas of the societies. The involvement of the authorities in the private sphere is limited, however it is put forward by several equalist approaches that the incidents of the persons are very political. 

It is still challenging to know what is exactly happening in a household, especially considering insecure ones in terms of violating basic human rights. The sides tend to hide the traumatizing stories from their environment. The perapatureators hide it to protect his/herself and the victims tend to hide it due to shame, fear, or doubts about being misjudged. The law, judges, civil society, and individuals could approach such cases in a subjective or manipulative way. Also, there is always a need for an expert approach in such sensitive incidents.  Therefore it is crucial to have a strong standpoint with a well-prepared text. Public opinion, mainly on social media, started to spread the word and explain the convention in various ways. It is internationally very important to understand the convention as it is also argued in different countries than Turkey. 

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