New Delhi, Sep 12 : Much has been written about cases of domestic violence having risen during the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide. However, shocking figures are coming out of Turkey where as many as 90 women have been killed between June and August, mostly by relatives or men they were in a relationship with.

In the city of Osmaniye in the Cukurova region of Turkey, 57-year-old Fatma Altun was killed with a firearm by Mehmet Altun, the man she was married to. 28-year-old Sevgi Yavuz in Kahramanmaras was killed 'due to economic reasons' by Ali Yavuz as the divorce proceedings between the two were initiated. 31-year-old Yonca Tatarka, living in Balikesir, was shot dead by her former husband in the middle of a street. Dilek Akbulut, a 36-year-old mother-of-three, was killed by husband Bekir Akbulut at her workplace in Ankara with the excuse of jealousy.

The list is long and unending. During the pandemic, there have been several high-profile murders and rapes of women in Turkey by men, including current or former partners.

According to the 'We Will Stop Femicide Platform' - which was founded in 2010 to stop femicide and ensure protection for women from violence in Turkey - nearly 500 women were killed in the country last year. This year, the number of victims could hit an all-time high. The figures recorded for criminal acts of physical, psychological, digital, honor-related, sexual, economic violence, child abuse, etc., are obviously mammoth.

While all over the world, domestic violence is considered as a violation of women's human rights and governments have an obligation to take reasonable and effective measures to prevent, investigate, punish and redress domestic violence, the Turkish government is planning to do just the opposite.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, widely accused of acting like an 'Ottoman Sultan', has made public his intentions to withdraw from the Council of Europe Convention (ironically, better known as Istanbul Convention as it was forged in the iconic city), the first European treaty specifically targeting violence against women and domestic violence. It is widely recognized as the most advanced legally binding treaty to prevent and combat gender-based violence, including marital rape, forced marriages, stalking, female genital mutilations and so-called 'honor crime''. No state has ever withdrawn from it.

"An understanding, a regulation or an ideology which places a dynamite on the foundation of the family is not legitimate. I am of the opinion that we are highly capable to draft texts which honor human dignity, put the family at the center and which are appropriate for our social fabric. Instead of translated texts, we need to determine our frame on our own. Instead of saying Copenhagen criteria, we would say Ankara criteria and proceed on our way," Erdogan said last month while targeting the convention. Turkey was, in fact, the first country to ratify the treaty on March 12, 2012. The convention was also signed by 45 of the Council of Europe Member States and ratified by 34 of them.

Following the statement that "we can withdraw if necessary", it has been observed that violations of rights against women have witnessed a surge in Turkey. In the past few weeks, thousands of women too have taken to the streets of Ankara and Istanbul leading massive protests with slogans like "let the Istanbul Convention be Implemented" and "keep the Istanbul Convention alive".

"There is a bitter irony to the fact that the Turkish authorities are considering withdrawing from a Convention bearing the name of its most iconic city," says Amnesty International's Women's Rights Researcher, Anna Blus.

"This discussion is deeply worrying, coming at time when Covid-19 measures, such as lockdown, have led to a spike in reports of violence against women and girls with many women and girls trapped at home with their abusers or unable to easily access safety and support services. Turkey's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention would have disastrous consequences for millions of women and girls in the country and to organizations providing vital support to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence," said Blus.

The hardliners in Turkey, and there are loads of them now who've been promised the return of the Ottoman Empire by their President, are however in no mood to back off on convention, just as they were on Hagia Sophia. Leaders of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) agree with their boss when he says that Turkey is in need of a new convention unique to the country that would protect the family structure.

Clearly, Turkey isn't bothered to better protect and promote the rights of women and girls. The death toll continues to increase as you read this while the killers roam scot-free.

As Istanbul-based attorney Selin Nakipoglu, who has spent years facing off with men in court who say they were provoked into killing their wives, told Washington's publicly funded non-profit media organization National Public Radio, last year: "They show up in court wearing suits and ties, saying they're sorry but 'honor' made them do it. And the judges let (them) get away with it." (This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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