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Turkey Officially Withdraws from Treaty Protecting Women

ISTANBUL — Turkey formally withdrew Thursday from a landmark international treaty protecting women from violence, though President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted it won't be a step backwards for women.

Erdogan ended the country's participation in the Council of Europe's Istanbul Convention through a surprise overnight decree in March, prompting condemnation from women's rights groups and western countries. A court appeal to stop the withdrawal was rejected this week.

The leader announced his "Action Plan for Combating Violence against Women" 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 normalize homosexuality – which is incompatible with Turkey's social and family values."

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

Women, LGBT groups and allies 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. 

Data by the We Will Stop Femicide group shows 189 women were murdered in 2021 in the country, and 409 were murdered last year, including dozens found dead under suspicious circumstances.

Amnesty International called Turkey's withdrawal "shameful" in a statement. 

"At the stroke of midnight today, Turkey turned its back on the gold standard for the safety of women and girls. The withdrawal sends a reckless and dangerous message to perpetrators who abuse, maim and kill: that they can carry on doing so with impunity," said Amnesty International's Secretary General, Agnès Callamard.

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