CESI Women’s Rights Commission calls on Turkey to reverse its withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention

The Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Commission of CESI, the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, is dismayed about the Turkish government’s announced withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention and calls on Turkish President Erdogan to reconsider.

The Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, commonly regarded as a landmark treaty to prevent and combat violence against women and signed and ratified by a large majority of European countries, entered into force in 2011 and has been a central instrument to combat both psychological and physical violence, including rape, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and sexual harassment.

Kirsten Lühmann, designated President of CESI’s Commission on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Commission, said: “Violence against women and girls is an issue around the globe, and the Covid crisis has further adverse consequences. In particular, domestic violence surged significantly as lockdowns persisted. Withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention is a major setback from for women in Turkey, and it is even more dramatic in the current circumstances. Disrespect for the Istanbul Convention is against everything the EU stands for. President Erdogan must reverse the decision if he ever wants a prospect of EU membership for Turkey.”

“President Erdogan justified the move by saying that the Convention harms the unity of families and promotes divorces. According to this logic, continued marriage is more important than the prevention of violence against women. This is an alarming argumentation”, she added.

Carmen Jaffke, designated Vice-President of CESI’s Commission on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Commission and CESI’s representative in the Board of Administration of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), stressed: “There is a serious risk that the intended Turkish withdrawal also gives additional momentum to governments in EU countries such as Poland to withdraw from the Convention. The EU must make sure that no Member State drops out and it must also prioritise a ratification of the Convention in all EU countries. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia – these countries all still have to act on this. If they continue to show to no willingness to do so, President von der Leyen must table a proposal for an EU directive to have the essential elements of the Istanbul Convention made binding law in all Member States, achieved by a qualified majority vote in the Council.”