ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK party is considering withdrawing Turkey from an international deal to protect women, party officials have said, alarming activists who see the pact as key to fighting the increasing domestic violence.
Officials said the AKP should decide by next week whether to withdraw from the deal, just weeks after the vicious murder of a woman by an ex-boyfriend reignited a row over the way of combating violence against women.
Despite the signing of the Council of Europe agreement in 2011, pledging to prevent, prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and promote equality, Turkey experienced 474 feminicides last year, double the number observed in 2011, according to a group that monitors the murders of women.
Many conservatives in Turkey claim that the pact, ironically forged in Istanbul, encourages violence by undermining family structures. Their opponents argue that the agreement and the legislation approved in its wake must be implemented more strictly.
The dispute affects not only Erdogan’s AKP, but even his own family, with two of his children involved in groups on either side of the Istanbul Convention debate.
The AKP will decide next week whether to take legal steps to withdraw from the deal, a senior party official told Reuters.
“There is a small majority (within the party) who believe it is right to withdraw,” said the official, who however argued that dropping the deal as violence against women was on the rise. would send the wrong signals.
Another AKP official argued instead that the way to reduce violence was to pull out, adding that a decision would be made next week.
The argument crystallized last month around the brutal murder of Pinar Gultekin, 27, a student from southwestern Mugla province, who was strangled, burned and thrown into a barrel – the latest d ‘an increasing number of women killed by men in Turkey. .
An ex-boyfriend has been charged with murder and jailed awaiting trial after confessing to the murder, media reported.
Opponents of the deal say it is part of the problem because it undermines traditional values that protect society.
“It is our religion that determines our core values, our view of the family,” said the Turkish Youth Foundation, whose advisory board includes President Bilal Erdogan’s son. He called on Turkey to withdraw from the deal.
The Association Femmes et Démocratie (KADEM), of which Sumeyye, Erdogan’s daughter is vice-president, rejects this argument. “We can no longer speak of ‘family’ … in a relationship where one side is oppressed and subjected to violence,” KADEM said.
“BREAK WITH THE CIVILIZED WORLD”
Many conservatives are also hostile to the principle of gender equality in the Istanbul Convention and see it as a promotion of homosexuality, given its principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Critics of the attempt to withdraw from the pact say it would put Turkey even further out of step with the values of the European Union, which it has sought to adhere to for decades.
“It would really shatter Turkey from the civilized world and the consequences could be very serious,” Gamze Tascier, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, told Reuters.
Turkey would not be the first country to abandon the deal. Poland’s highest court is due to consider the pact after a cabinet member said Warsaw should abandon the treaty that the nationalist government considers too liberal. [nL5N2F1534]
Turkish women’s groups were scheduled to demonstrate on Wednesday to demand better implementation of the deal, taking to the streets after an online campaign in the wake of Gultekin’s murder where they shared black and white selfies on Instagram.
Turkey does not keep official statistics on femicide. Data from the World Health Organization has shown that 38% of women in Turkey experience partner violence in their lifetime, compared to around 25% in Europe.
The government has taken steps such as tagging people known to use violence and creating a smartphone app for women to alert police, which has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.
Additional reports by Yesim Dikmen; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans and Alexandra Hudson