Gender equality is a prerequisite for social justice and moral development within a society.
It is impossible to observe respect for basic human values in societies where women are oppressed by men and treated as second-class citizens. That’s why Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was such a strong advocate of women’s rights and made gender equality one of the founding principles of the Republic of Turkey.
Turkey’s pioneering role in drafting the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence), which aims to combat all forms of violence against women, and naming the agreement after its largest city, being the first signotory and acceding state was a remarkable accomplishment in line with Atatürk’s principles. It also boosted Turkey’s international profile and image.
Women’s rights can only be upheld in an environment where violence against women is completely eliminated. In this regard, the Istanbul Convention, as an international accord, has the utmost importance in promoting women’s rights and achieving gender equality. Accordingly, implementing this treaty in accordance with our constitution will elevate the status of Turkish women and Turkey as a whole.
It is with utter sadness, however, that we note that some circles within society which have failed to internalize gender equality, and which have misinterpreted the concept of “gender,”campaigned for Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on the grounds that the convention did not fully protect the family as an institution.
The convention defines the concept of “gender” as “the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men.” Anyone acting in good faith could not possibly draw incorrect conclusions from this clear definition.
Moreover, one of the main goals of the Istanbul Convention is to prevent domestic violence. Without question, reinforcing the institution of the family requires the elimination of domestic violence and abuse; in this, the institution of the family will be strengthened in direct proportion to the degree that domestic violence decreases. Given that, suggesting that the convention is undermining family values defies reason.
The decision to withdraw from an international treaty that was unanimously approved by the Turkish Grand National Assembly to great applause, through a presidential decree has rightfully raised many questions. It has also raised concerns over the rule of law.
Turkey’s decision to withdraw from the convention has attracted criticism at home and abroad, regrettably damaging the country’s already-tarnished image even further. Turkey has no need for such burdens.
We hope that this decision would be reversed as soon as possible and Turkey, in a fashion that befits her, plays a leading role in implementing the convention, just as she did in adopting it.
Ankara Policy Center