UN rights chief dismayed by Turkey women's treaty withdrawal

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Michelle Bachelet. (Jewel Samad, AFP)
Michelle Bachelet. (Jewel Samad, AFP)
  • UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet is dismayed at Turkey pulling out of the world's first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women.
  • She described the move as a significant step backwards in Turkey's efforts to advance women's rights.
  • The move ignited domestic and international outrage.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet is dismayed at Turkey pulling out of the world's first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, her office said on Tuesday.

Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, called the move a retrograde step.

Turkey announced on Saturday that it was withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention that it helped bring together.

"The High Commissioner has expressed her dismay at the withdrawal, which represents a significant step backwards in Turkey's efforts to advance women's rights, especially given that gender inequality and gender-based violence against women remain a serious concern in Turkish society," her office said in a statement.

The convention is "an important regional human rights treaty on combatting all forms of violence against women, highlights wider concerns regarding the human rights situation in the country, notably the shrinking of civic space and the lack of meaningful and democratic participation in decision-making," the statement said.

The withdrawal was taken without a parliamentary debate and reportedly without wider consultation with civil society, including women's groups and women rights defenders, it added.

The convention, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

Turkey's active role in negotiating the convention, and its pioneering step in becoming the first country to ratify it in March 2012 "makes its decision to abandon it now all the more shocking", said the statement.

The pull-out "sends a wrong signal to the world, at a time when global commitment and political will to eradicate violence against women are needed", said Bachelet's office.

International outrage 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government announced the decision on Saturday, the latest victory for conservatives in his nationalist party and their allies who argued the treaty damaged family unity.

But the move ignited domestic and international outrage, with thousands in Turkey protesting the move.

US President Joe Biden said on Sunday he was "deeply disappointed" by the move, while Europe's top rights body, the Council of Europe, denounced Turkey's withdrawal.

Bachelet's office urged Turkey to reverse its decision and ensure the safety and rights of all women and girls in Turkey are promoted and protected.

Meanwhile Dubravka Simonovic, the UN special rapporteur on violence against women, said the move was a "worrying step backwards" that "sends a dangerous message".

"This decision weakens protections for women's well-being and safety and leaves them at further risk at a time when violence against women is surging all over the world," said the expert, who is mandated by the UN but does not speak for the global body.

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