Numan Kurtuldir, the Deputy Chairman of Turkey’s ruling AK party has said that the signing of the Istanbul Convention was wrong.
The Istanbul Convention, otherwise known as the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence was signed in Istanbul on 11 May 2011. The convention aims to prevent violence, offer victim protection and end impunity for perpetrators. Turkey was the first country to ratify the convention and there are now 45 signatories.
The Convention is the first legally-binding instrument that creates a comprehensive legal framework to combat violence against women. It characterises violence against women as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination. It also provides a definition of gender, referring to it as “the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men.”
It also includes the criminalisation of several offences including psychological violence, rape, non-consensual sexual activity, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced abortion, and forced sterilisation. It also stipulates that sexual harassment should be subject to a criminal or legal sanction.
Kurtuldir said that “the signing of the Istanbul Convention was really wrong…There are two important points in this text that we need to draw attention to and which do not match with us. One of them is a gender issue and the other is a sexual orientation preference.”
He added that many other party members support his stance and that “equal opportunity between men and women is one of the main issues of our customs in the Turkish legal system”. He also said that domestic violence will not increase if the Convention is abolished.
In November 2018, the CoE released a statement countering criticism of the convention. They said that “despite its clearly stated aims, several religious and ultra-conservative groups have been spreading false narratives about the Istanbul Convention.” It went on to explain how it does not seek to impose a certain lifestyle on anyone but instead only skees to prevent violence against women and domestic violence.
“The Convention is certainly not about ending sexual differences between men and women. Nowhere does the convention ever imply that women and men are or should be “the same”, nor does it seek to regulate family life or structures, it neither contains a definition of the family nor does it promote a particular type of family setting.”