Turkey quits treaty to prevent violence against women
The 2011 pact, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to adopt legislation linked to the prosecution of crimes including marital rape and female genital mutilation
Turkey on Thursday formally exited a treaty combating femicide and domestic abuse, in a controversial move by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that was condemned by the West and rights groups.
Erdogan sparked outrage in March by pulling out from the world's first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention.
The 2011 pact, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to adopt legislation linked to the prosecution of crimes including marital rape and female genital mutilation.
Erdogan's move came as he clings onto support from conservative and nationalist groups to maintain his 18-year rule.
Justifying the decision, Erdogan's top press aide Fahrettin Altun said the treaty's references to gender-based abuses had been "hijacked by people attempting to normalise homosexuality".
The LGBTQ movement is "incompatible" with Turkey's social and family values, Altun said.
Major Turkish cities were convulsed earlier this year by student-led protests supporting broader rights.
Homosexuality has been legal in Turkey since the Ottoman Empire. But women's rights groups accuse Ankara of withdrawing from the treaty to appease conservatives at a time when Erdogan's ruling party is recording lower levels of support.
"We will continue our struggle," Canan Gullu, president of the Federation of Turkish Women's Associations, said on Wednesday. "Turkey is shooting itself in the foot with this decision."
She said that since March, women and other vulnerable groups had been more reluctant to ask for help and less likely to receive it, with COVID-19 fuelled economic difficulties causing a dramatic increase in violence against them.
The withdrawal was condemned by the European Union and the United States.
Turkey's highest administrative court on Tuesday rejected an attempt to annul the withdrawal, saying that Erdogan had the "authority" to make the decision.
Rights organisations say Erdogan's decision will put women at greater risk of violence when femicide is already prevalent in Turkey.
Last year, 300 women were murdered in the country, according to the rights group We Will Stop Femicide Platform, while 189 have been killed so far this year.
"The withdrawal sends a reckless and dangerous message to perpetrators who abuse, maim and kill: that they can carry on doing so with impunity," said Amnesty International's secretary-general, Agnes Callamard.
There are protests planned for Thursday evening across Turkey, with a large rally in Istanbul to start at 1600 GMT.
Femicide has surged in Turkey, with one monitoring group logging roughly one per day in the last five years. Proponents of the convention and related legislation say more stringent implementation is needed.