Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention frightens activists

“Right-leaning, populist and authoritarian regimes target gender equality all around the world. Religious and authoritarian regimes that target gender equality, women’s rights and LGBTI+ rights, aim to undermine democracy and the rule of law,” comments Berfu Şeker, of the group Women’s Human Rights - New Solutions. 

Both the signing of the convention by Turkey and its later withdrawal were due to the internal politics of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is now moving to  satisfy its conservative majority, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting said in a recent note.

Withdrawing from the Convention means that anti-feminist, anti-LGBT attitudes are gradually being supported by the ruling party in government, the note says.

This is dangerous, because Turkish women’s rights organisations record reports of violence against women, and saw a decrease in the number of incidents in the year the convention was signed, the note says.

At first, the AKP supported the initiative, because it considered issues of diversity and anti-discrimination to be an asset.

“The AKP cared back then because it served them in their conflict with the state military to promote diversity. They also wanted to appear in coherence with the international political landscape,” according to the note.

The AKP’s image and agenda has changed drastically during its time in office, however, the note continues.

The party had now switched to polarising rhetoric that aimed to prop up social hierarchies. This does not necessarily have widespread support: according to the Metropoll Research Center, 52.3 percent of people in Turkey oppose the withdrawal.

However, a small group of conservative voters who were in favour [of Turkey’s withdrawal] constitute an important portion of the AKP’s voter base,” the note pointed out.

Meanwhile, the government is considering creating its own “Ankara Convention” with a much more traditional attitude towards women’s rights.  Needless to say, activists are not pleased with the prospect.