Turkey Quits Istanbul Convention – How This Affects Women’s Rights

The Istanbul Convention aims to ‘prevent, prosecute and eliminate’ domestic violence and crimes against women.

2 min read
Turkish women protesting their country’s 

“You will never walk alone,” reverberated in Turkey over the weekend, as thousands of women took to the streets demanding their government to take back their withdrawal from the historic Istanbul Convention – which aims to ‘prevent, prosecute and eliminate’ domestic violence.

Thirty-three countries, including Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Hungary, are a part of this treaty.


Formally known as the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, the Istanbul Convention is a human rights treaty. It aims to safeguard women against various forms of violence and protect their rights.

While it opened to signatures on 11 May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey was the first country to sign the treaty in 2012.


On Saturday, 20 March, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government announced that it will withdraw from the Istanbul Convention. The statement included no reason for the withdrawal.

However, this comes as no surprise as the conservatives have been arguing that the treaty undermined traditional family system and ‘encouraged women to divorce’ – arguments that were also used to initiate crackdown against the LGBTQIA+ community.


In July 2020, the brutal murder of a 27-year-old student named Pinar Gültekin sparked widespread outrage, throwing light on the country's high femicide rate.

The Guardian, quoting Turkish media, reported that she was beaten and then strangled to death by her former partner, who then burned her body, dumped it in a garbage bin, and covered it in concrete. The 32-year-old has been detained and is facing murder charges. But that’s not all.

In July 2020, each of our Instagram timelines were painted black-and-white by women posting their selfies, accompanied with #ChallengeAccepted and #WomenSupportingWomen. This had everything to do with violence against women in Turkey.

In 2019, 474 women were killed in the country – the highest number recorded in the decade. This was a whopping 200 percent increase since 237 women were murdered in 2013.  

According to a 2009 study on prevention strategies, 42 percent of Turkish women aged between 15-60 had suffered some physical or sexual violence by their partners.

Until June 2020, an estimated 146 Turkish women had been murdered last year. The lockdown, induced by the coronavirus pandemic, is expected to further increase these numbers.


Turkey’s ‘We Will Stop Femicide Platform’ Secretary General, Fidan Ataselim, said "millions of women" could not be ignored, imprisoned, effaced, or silenced.

Council of Europe’s Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić called Turkey’s withdrawal a ‘huge setback.’

“Turkey‘s announced withdrawal from the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on violence against women is a huge setback, compromising the protection of women in Turkey, across Europe and beyond,” she said.

The UN Women tweeted that “concerted international action and commitment to end violence against women and girls is more important than ever.”

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