Turkey sparked both domestic and international outrage Saturday after it withdrew from the world's first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government announced the decision before dawn Saturday, the latest victory for conservatives in his nationalist party and their allies who argued the treaty damaged family unity.
The 2011 Istanbul 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.
Europe's top rights body, the Council of Europe, denounced Turkey's withdrawal from a treaty it sponsored and expressed concern about global efforts to protect women and girls.
"This move is a huge setback to these efforts and all the more deplorable because it compromises the protection of women in Turkey, across Europe and beyond," Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buricshe said.
The treaty "is widely regarded as the gold standard in international efforts to protect women and girls from the violence that they face every day in our societies," she added.
Conservatives had claimed the charter damages family unity, encourages divorce and that its references to equality were being used by the LGBT community to gain broader acceptance in society.
The publication of the decree in the official gazette early Saturday immediately sparked anger among Turkish rights groups and calls for protests in Istanbul.