The Istanbul Convention, negotiated in Turkey's biggest city and signed in 2011, had committed its signatories to prevent and prosecute domestic violence and promote equality.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accompanied by his wife Emine Erdogan attends an action plan meeting to prevent violence against women, in Ankara, Turkey July 1, 2021.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accompanied by his wife Emine Erdogan attends an action plan meeting to prevent violence against women, in Ankara, Turkey July 1, 2021. (Presidential Press Office/Handout / Reuters)

Turkey's withdrawal on Thursday from an international treaty to prevent violence against women is not a step backwards, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, announcing a new action plan to combat violence against women.

"Some circles are trying to portray our withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention as a step backwards in our battle with violence against women," he said on Thursday at the 4th National Action Plan Promotion Meeting on Combating Violence Against Women in Ankara.

"Our battle did not start with the Istanbul Convention and it will not end with our withdrawal from the treaty," he said of the pact that was first forged and signed in Turkey's largest city in 2011.

Erdogan announced in March the decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention. 

The Istanbul Convention, negotiated in Turkey's biggest city and signed in 2011, had committed its signatories to prevent and prosecute domestic violence and promote equality. Turkey was the first country to ratify it.

"Our country's withdrawal from the convention will not lead to any legal or practical shortcoming in the prevention of violence against women," Erdogan's office said in a statement to the administrative court on Tuesday.

"We will continue our struggle," Canan Gullu, president of the Federation of Turkish Women's Associations, said on Wednesday. 

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.

A court appeal to halt the withdrawal was rejected earlier this week in Turkey.

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.

The action plan

“We are making the fight (against violence) even stronger with our new action plan,” Erdogan said.

The first goal of the new plan is to review Turkey's legislation on combating violence and its effective implementation, he explained.

The plan covers the period from 2021 to 2025.

Turkey's new plan is reported to have five objectives, 28 strategies and 227 activities.

Ankara's announcement to quit the convention this year had triggered condemnation from both the United States and the European Union where many states have not yet ratified the document. 

At least 13 countries have not ratified it: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Many people in Turkey and in the governing Justice and Development (AK) Party say the pact undermines the family structures that protect society.

Some also see the Convention as promoting homosexuality through its principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

This month, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic sent a letter to Turkey's interior and justice ministers expressing concerns.

"All the measures provided for by the Istanbul Convention reinforce family foundations and links by preventing and combating the main cause of destruction of families, that is, violence," she said.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies