As the world faced with the first-time global epidemic of the 21st century, we also witnessed the immediate affects of the acceleration of the long-warned climate crisis, the continuous tragedy of migration and that the political and social growth of right-wing conservatism reach a climax. As in every crisis, some groups experience the impact more intensely. Though it was only in 2020 that the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action where the member states of the United Nations had declared their commitments to ‘advance the goals of equality, development and peace for all women everywhere in the interest of all humanity’, was celebrated globally, it is apparent that the necessity of a global struggle for equal rights remain indispensable as gender equality is the number five item of the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’.
And most recently, the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 Index of the World Economic Forum has revealed the ugly truth, that gender parity will not be attained for another 135.6 years with a substantially increased gap from the 99.5 years of 2020. It seems that the pandemic did its deed, and now the struggle for gender equality is needed more than ever.
Hence, it did not come as a surprise to us in Turkey when we woke up to a Saturday morning on 20 March 2021, a few weeks after 8 March 2021, to read that Turkey’s president had issued a decree annulling Turkey’s ratification of the Istanbul Agreement – the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence; though it was the first country to ratify it in 2012.
The lobbying of the expected withdrawal of Turkey had been going on for years on the grounds that the convention encourages divorce by supporting women to join the labour force denying their motherhood or promoting “immoral lifestyles” with acknowledgement of partnership of the unmarried and the existence of LGBT. We know that there are many countries who still did not sign or ratify. We hear many other governments claim that their local and national laws will protect women better than the international treaties; that definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity are not right; that emancipation of women will disrupt the traditional values, the patriarchy.
It was not long before though that the women NGOs called for all to join protests country wide. Many women and men came together to show their outrage and refusal to accept this decision. EŞİK Platform, a coalition of 300 different NGOs, unified few years ago to support the Istanbul Convention, announced their work is not over. We Will Stop Femicide Platform keeps growing by many lawyers, activists, volunteers supporting all those in need where the judicial system fails.
Despite the claims of the bureaucrats that the Turkish society wants to hang on to its traditional values, the research and surveys prove otherwise. The Konda report reveals that 90 percent of society is against marriages before age of 18; only 35 per cent knows what the Istanbul Convention really means but 84 percent of those who do is in favour. We are blessed with a young population who cares to live in peace and harmony.
Turkey’s constitution says international agreements have the force of law. So, what happens with this annulment will be a milestone. It is no coincidence that women and all LGBT are put under spot everywhere as all the civil rights activists and politicians who still struggle for equality and democracy. I now believe that uniting of women will emancipate all civil society from all kinds of oppression. We have hope as we are together as women of the world and not alone. WOW Istanbul Festival will continue to provide a platform for this global solidarity.