Turkish women rally to defend rights

Hundreds of women rally in Istanbul on Saturday, urging President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reverse his decision to withdraw from an anti-violence treaty ahead of a formal exit on July 1.

Erdogan sparked outrage in March by pulling out of the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention.

The anger has not subsided with women’s groups organising two big protests in Istanbul, one on Saturday and another on July 1 to pressure the government to roll back the decision before the official withdrawal. Smaller protests are planned until July 1.

Over 1,000 women from across Turkey  took part in the demonstration on the Asian side of Istanbul surrounded by a heavy police presence, an AFP correspondent said.

Some held rainbow flags while others held placards saying: “Istanbul Convention is ours.”

“Our hope is always rooted in our struggles, in our organisations,” Melek Ondas, of the Women’s Council association, said, adding that women came from 70 provinces to Istanbul.

“We believe in the strength of our organisations. And whether the decision is overturned or not, we will continue our struggle in every way possible,” she told AFP.

The 2011 Istanbul Convention, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to adopt legislation linked to the prosecution of domestic violence including marital rape and female genital mutilation.

Women’s rights organisations accuse the government of withdrawing from the treaty to appease conservatives who claimed the treaty damaged family unity.

Conservatives also suggested references to equality in the treaty were used by the LGBT community to gain broader acceptance in Turkish society.

But critics of Erdogan’s decision say the withdrawal puts women in Turkey at greater risk in a country where violence against women is prevalent.

Last year, 300 women were murdered according to the rights group We Will Stop Femicide Platform, while 177 have been killed so far this year.

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