Turkey withdraws from treaty on women

·2-min read

Turkey has formally withdrawn from a landmark international treaty protecting women from violence although President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists it won't be a step backwards for women.

Hundreds of women demonstrated in Istanbul later on Thursday, holding banners that said they won't give up on the Council of Europe's Istanbul Convention.

"It's not over for us," one read.

Similar protests were held in other Turkish cities.

Erdogan ended the country's participation in the convention with a surprise overnight decree in March, prompting condemnation from women's rights groups.

A court appeal to stop the withdrawal was rejected this week.

Erdogan announced his "Action Plan for Combating Violence against Women" on Thursday, which includes goals such as reviewing judicial processes, improving protection services and gathering data on violence.

"Some groups are trying to present our official withdrawal from the Istanbul convention on July 1st as going backwards," he said.

"Just like our fight against violence towards women did not start with the Istanbul Convention, it won't end with our withdrawal."

In March, the Turkish Presidency's Directorate of Communications issued a statement saying the Istanbul Convention was "hijacked" by those "attempting to normalise homosexuality - which is incompatible with Turkey's social and family values".

Erdogan emphasised traditional family and gender values on Thursday, saying combating violence against women was also a fight to "protect the rights and the honour of our mothers, wives, daughters".

US State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted that Turkey's withdrawal was "deeply disappointing and a step backward for the international effort to end violence against women".

Women, LGBT groups and others have been protesting the decision.

They say the convention's pillars of prevention, protection, criminal prosecution and policy coordination as well as its identification of gender-based violence are crucial to protecting women in Turkey.

Hundreds of women gathered on Thursday amid a heavy police presence in Istanbul's main pedestrian thoroughfare.

Protesters held colourful banners, feminist and rainbow flags, played music, whistled and shouted slogans.

Police closed off the area but later briefly removed barricades to allow a short march.

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