It should be remembered that the Istanbul Convention is a Council of Europe convention that aims to combat violence against women and girls. It was presented in Istanbul in 2011 and has been in force in Europe since August 1, 2014. In 2019, it was signed by 46 countries and ratified by 34. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs has regretted Turkey’s decision as it is the first and the main binding multilateral instrument to combat violence against women. As stated by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marina Pejcinovic, “The Istanbul Convention is considered the benchmark for international efforts to protect women and girls from the violence they face daily in our societies.” And it is that the Convention considers as a crime all forms of violence against women: physical, psychological and sexual violence, including rape, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, harassment, forced abortion, as well as forced sterilization and it implies that the signatory countries undertake to introduce these crimes progressively into their legal systems.
The decision has caused surprise – anger among many Turkish women – because, although the withdrawal was already announced last summer, it was carried out by means of a presidential decree by the first signatory country; has caused concern because it represents a step backwards in the efforts of the international community to protect women in Europe and in Turkey, a country where 300 women have been murdered in 2020. It could also set a negative precedent as stated by the High Representative for Politics Outside the EU, Josep Borrell, since: “This decision sends a dangerous message to the whole world.” Turkey, outside the EU and within the Council of Europe, maintains a Customs Union with the European territory, in force since 1996, which allows you to trade products from both sides without paying tariffs. Relations between the EU and the Eurasian country are certainly difficult and complex. Considered the gateway to Europe, it is a country that it needs as a crucial partner for the management of migratory flows, and with which it maintains strong commercial ties, as well as being a partner of the Atlantic Alliance.
There are those who see the same logic in the move towards the European president and in leaving the Istanbul Convention. It was a sign and a scenography because Von der Leyen expressly requested that the decision to leave the European agreement be reversed, in addition to other matters. Lara Villalón, in her EuroEfe article: “Turkey’s exit from the Istanbul Convention, a nod to the ultraconservatives” observes, behind the withdrawal, an electoral strategy to seek support from Islamist sectors that criticize, for example, the Convention for normalizing homosexuality, incompatible with the social and family values of Turkey. Although homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, the LGBTQ community is targeted by ultra-conservative supporters.
What is the fate of women in Europe? An area that should exceed the limits of the EU since what happens in countries “neighboring” to the EU, is of special relevance. Today, the news is in Turkey, but within the European Union, Poland already threatened last summer to do the same, and is practicing policies of regression in relation to the sexual and reproductive rights of women as I wrote in this newspaper ago some weeks. Conservative parties are growing in Europe and have made women and LGTBI + groups the perfect target. What will be the response and the red lines of a Europe that claims equality and Human Rights as fundamental values and has made them one of its hallmarks? There is no global organization as important as the EU and that has provided so many opportunities for citizens. It faces many and varied challenges transnationally: the Health Union, the Union of economic recovery or the Union facing the climate challenge that will make Europe a green, sustainable and climate neutral. To these must be added the Europe of equality, capable of eradicating the violence that women suffer on a daily basis.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.