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Istanbul ConventionIn 2010, the Council of Europe drafted the “Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence” treaty, commonly known as the Istanbul Convention. The Convention aims to address violence against women and femicide. In total, 45 European countries signed the convention and support for the treaty was nearly universal. However, the withdrawal of Turkey marks a turning point in the perceived political meaning of the convention. Concerns are that if other countries follow suit, this would potentially leave millions of women without essential legislative protections.

The Development of the Convention

According to the EU, violence against women is a universal phenomenon, pervasive among all classes, nationalities and cultures. Data collection on gender-based violence has long been an issue due to underreporting and societal pressures for women to remain silent. Prior to the legal implementation of the Istanbul Convention in 2014, violence against women in Europe was a significant worry, even with incomplete data. In 2012, a survey of women between 18 and 74 who experienced violence at least once in their lifetime revealed that Denmark, the United Kingdom and Finland ranked the highest in this regard in the European region. Nearly 50% of the Danish women surveyed endured physical violence at least once in their lifetime, with that percentage being closer to 40% for both the United Kingdom and Finland.

After rising political pressure from multiple EU Ministers of Justice, especially with regards to partner and relationship violence against women, the Council of Europe decided in favor of forming a committee of experts. The committee called CAHVIO would go on to draft and finalize the Istanbul Convention in late 2010. In May 2011, the treaty was adopted. The convention was signed by 45 European countries. The signing of the convention took place in Istanbul, with the city becoming the namesake of the convention. After the 10th ratification of the convention by Andorra in 2014, the Istanbul Convention went on to become legally binding that same year.

The Protections of the Istanbul Convention

More than 60 pages long, the Istanbul Convention states a wide range of protections for women, particularly women who are victims of domestic abuse. The Convention mandates governmental aid for women in need, ranging from financial aid, shelter and professional guidelines for workplaces. Additionally, the Convention mentions supportive action for children living in abusive environments and encourages further holistic research into the issue of violence against women.

Chapter five of the Convention is where firm policies and legislation come into play. The Convention specifically states legislative action that member nations must take. Psychological violence, sexual harassment, stalking, physical violence, female genital mutilation, honor killings and more, are all considered forms of violence against women. Countries that ratify the convention are then responsible for developing hotlines, women’s shelters, medical resources, counseling and other essential services to protect women. The Group of Experts on Action Against Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence investigates whether or not ratifying countries are upholding the Convention.

Since entering into force in 2014, the Istanbul Convention has prompted many policy changes in Europe. With particular regards to Turkey, the parliament adopted serious policy changes in 2012 largely based on the wording of the Istanbul Convention the country signed in 2011.

Turkey’s Withdrawal and its Subsequent Impact

In March 2021, Turkey suddenly withdrew from the Istanbul Convention. Turkey’s president claims that the treaty threatens traditional family values. Responding to the sudden decision, many international organizations expressed dismay. In a statement from the United Nations,  senior experts on violence against women and domestic violence labeled the decision a “misinterpretation” of the text of the convention, insisting that Turkey reconsiders the stance.

Additionally, the statement emphasizes that women are even more at risk of domestic violence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing to Turkey’s rising femicide rates in recent years. With news of Poland also reconsidering its position regarding the Istanbul Convention, women in both nations are now faced with the reality of weakening legislative protections.

Critics from around the world have pointed out that it is a significant step back from the standardization of basic women’s rights. The Deputy chairperson for Turkey’s main opposition party, Gokce Gokcen, tweeted that the decision means women will in essence continue to be classified as second-class citizens.

Organizational Efforts in the Fight Against Violence

With the withdrawal has come a wave of movement from international and domestic women’s groups, NGOs and governmental organizations alike. Turkish organizations like the We Will Stop Femicide Platform contribute to public awareness in Turkey through social media campaigns and exhibitions. The platform takes legal action on behalf of victims, in addition to organizing community events and protests in local branches across Turkey. With continued support, platforms and organizations will persist in calling for the legal protection of women in the hope that Turkey will reconsider its decision.

Maddie Youngblood
Photo: Flickr

Femicides in GermanyThe ongoing femicide crisis in Germany is an issue that needs addressing. In 2018, Germany had the highest rate of femicide in the world. Additionally, the country reported high numbers in 2019. Femicides in Germany are continuously growing. Every day in the country, a man attempts murder on their partner or ex-partner and every third day a victim dies. The worrying state of violence against women has prompted action to find solutions to protect women.

Violence and Discrimination Against Women

Domestic violence numbers have been steadily increasing worldwide, especially during COVID-19 lockdowns. Germany is no exception to this. By the age of 16, about 40% of women have experienced sexual or physical violence. Great oppression of women facilitates a place for domestic violence, indirectly encouraging femicides in Germany. Roughly 100 years ago German women gained the right to vote yet women are not properly protected in other aspects. Gender inequality can also be seen in the workplace as women earn 6.6% less than men in Germany, for the same work.

With the ongoing femicides in Germany, the country is trying to combat the crisis.

Gender Equality in the Workplace

In 2017, Germany turned its focus to implementing equal rights in the workforce, regardless of gender. About 20 countries came together to stop discrimination and reduce pay gaps between males and females. During this time, Germany signed onto the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative. This was done with the country’s full support of the Women’s Empowerment Principles created by U.N. Women and the U.N. Global Compact. These seven principles offer guidance on how to empower women in the workplace and community.

Additionally, Germany committed to ending the oppression of women in the workforce with an attempt at a stronger relationship using the Development Policy Action Plan on Gender Equality 2016-2020. This partnership is imperative to the empowerment of women’s voices in Germany.

Convention to Prevent Violence Against Women

In 2018, Germany signed the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention. The convention is a first-of-its-kind document spelling out a new legal binding to prevent femicides in Germany. In 2018, 45 of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe signed and 28 states ratified it. This convention promotes gender equality and the protection of women from violence.

Germany still struggles to care for domestic violence victims. Every year, 30,000 German women look for shelters but only half of them can be accommodated. Germany has shelters that can be accessed online and a hotline for victims of violence. It is clear, however, that efforts are needed to increase resources and services for victims of violence.

The Road Ahead

Femicide in Germany is such a controversial topic that only one in three domestic violence cases gets reported. Because of this taboo, femicides continue. German prosecutor, Julia Schäfer, tells Deutsche Welle, “Domestic violence occurs in all parts of society, it is not a question of religion or nationality or education.” She says further, “It is our obligation not to turn a blind eye.” When human beings are being impacted by violence, it is a clear indication of another pandemic that is taking place amid COVID-19. Simply having more support to find the right resources is lifesaving for female victims of violence in Germany.

Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in TurkeyTurkey is located in the Mediterranean between Europe and the Middle East. Once part of the Ottoman Empire, this transcontinental country became autonomous in 1923 and is formally named the Republic of Turkey. After achieving sovereignty, the Turkish government immediately enacted legislation to ensure equality for men and women within politics and society. Despite these reforms, women’s rights in Turkey could still see improvement.

A Brief History of Women’s Rights in Turkey

Women’s rights in Turkey have come a long way since initial equality legislation in 1923. By the 1980s, women’s rights movements had gained more momentum when the Turkish government responded to protests regarding violence against women. In 1985, Turkey ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), thus giving women’s rights issues the political focus they deserve. Through the 1990s, the passage of laws to protect domestic violence survivors granted more fundamental rights to women. However, the Turkish government did not stop there in their fight for women’s rights.

In 2011, the Republic of Turkey—along with many other European countries—drafted and signed a resolution known as the Istanbul Convention to further solidify and protect women’s rights. This resolution provided strict legal action against those who committed violence towards women.  The status of women’s rights in Turkey has improved significantly since 1923, but the existence of said rights are currently at stake.

Women’s Rights Today

On August 13, 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated the government’s plans to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention altogether. Erdoğan explained that the convention’s resolution, “puts a dynamite on the foundation of the family” and is “not legitimate”. His decision has sparked outrage among women’s rights supporters in Turkey as this convention was a major milestone for women’s equality not only in Europe but across the world. Many have taken to the streets to protest Erdoğan’s declaration, but this has not reversed his proposal.

Turkey’s femicide rates have also increased in recent years. Femicide is known broadly as the murder of women and girls, and more specifically is the intentional killing of women simply because they are women. In 2019, 417 women were killed in domestic violence incidents and in 2020, 207 women were killed in homicides. This rise in femicide rates is attributable to both domestic violence and “honor killings”. Honor killings are when relatives or partners kill a loved one if they feel they’ve dishonored them in some way. Turkey has seen an increased rise in honor killings since 2018.

Won’t Back Down

Worldwide domestic violence against women has increased significantly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic—and Turkey is no exception. The recent femicide of 27-year-old college student Pınar Gültekin sparked outrage among women’s rights advocates in Turkey. Many have taken to the streets to call attention to rising femicide rates and domestic violence against women. Protests against President Erdoğan’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention have also reignited in the aftermath of Gültekin’s murder.

Today, activists in Turkey are continuing to support organizations and campaigns working to strengthen and protect women’s rights. There is still much work to do to ensure to protect women’s rights in Turkey.

– Sadat Tashin
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in Croatia
Croatia is a small country located in the Balkan region of Europe. It was formerly part of Yugoslavia and still adopts many of the conservative views of the former communist regime. The conservative viewpoints of the country place social restrictions on women, but they are encouraged to participate in the workforce and contribute to the economy. Croatian legislation provides incredibly specialized opportunities for both girls and boys as they move from their basic education to their career paths, but girls education is still highly influenced by traditional gender roles. In the article below, top 10 facts about girls education in Croatia are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in Croatia

  1. The female literacy rate is lower than those of men. In general, the adult population in Croatia has a very high literacy rate of 97 percent.  The men literacy rate is at 99.7 percent while the literacy rate for women is at 98.9 percent.
  2. Primary education is compulsory. Girls and boys are required to attend eight years of elementary education and then can choose to move to a secondary school and later in college. Schools teach orally in Croatian, but all written work is done in Latin. Students learn a minimum of two languages in their elementary education system. Secondary schools are optional and focus on specific areas of education and trade. Students may choose vocational, art, or specialized high school programs. Almost 67 percent of students in secondary school attend a vocational school. Female students have a gross enrollment ratio (GER) of over 100 in secondary education compared to male students with a GER of 95.6. More female students are also enrolled in tertiary education programs.
  3. Roma girls face difficulties completing primary education and Roma culture is highly discriminated in Croatia. They have Indian origins and generally live in the Northeastern provinces of the country. Few Roma children speak Croatian fluently and these children usually end up struggling in primary schools. Less than 50 percent of these children finish primary school and move onto secondary school.
  4. Most of the Croatian citizens are Roman Catholic and sexually conservative. The sex education policies of the country focus on the Family Planning method and teach abstinence-only programs. Homosexuality and gender disparity are portrayed in a negative and often “sinful” light. Girls are encouraged to follow a traditional role in their relationships and learn little knowledge about birth control methods and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) prevention.
  5. Sex and gender discrimination is normal. Girls do not learn about all of their possibilities due to the social conservative approach of education in Croatia. The role they are taught to follow tends to lead them away from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career paths and influences their secondary school choices. In addition, homosexuality and transgenderism are perceived as being abnormal.
  6. Girls are encouraged to focus on the arts and educational career paths. This practice affects the number of women enrolled in STEM classes. Men only make up 8.1 percent of those enrolled in education courses at universities and women are underrepresented in computer science, engineering, and architecture courses.
  7. Schools promote gender equality in theory. The Istanbul Convention was adopted in Croatia in May 2018. It addressed many civic and gender rights issues. The Croatian government implemented national legislation to create an institution of Gender Sensitive Education. The National Policy for Gender Equality focused on the elimination of gender stereotypes, teacher education on gender equality, and less influence of gender on occupational paths. However conservative gender roles are still imposed in spite of this legislation.
  8. Secondary schools have had more success adhering to the progressive gender legislation. The terminology of various occupational choices are being equalized and textbooks are being distributed with efforts to maintain gender neutrality. The Croatian Employment Service provides occupational guidance for students after primary schools regardless of gender through educational brochures and the computer program “My Choice”.
  9. Enrollment rates of women are currently growing in secondary and tertiary education programs. The proportion of women who complete their university or vocational studies is considerably higher than men at 59.5 percent. Around 55 percent of women attending tertiary schools receive a doctoral degree. At least 58.2 percent of university attendants also received a master’s degree.
  10. Most teachers in primary and secondary schools are women. The number of men with careers in education increases as the education level increases. However, even in higher-level universities and vocational schools, the gap between the percentage of female to male teachers is still 12.7 percent. Women dominate the education system, except in administrative and management capacities. Only 20.9 percent of deans in the 52 higher education system are women.

Girls are able to receive an incredibly comprehensive academic education through the Croatian public school system. With the adoption of the Istanbul Convention girls’ rights throughout the country should increase, including their rights in the school systems. The country has attempted to make strides in gender equality but still focuses on conservative viewpoints of sexuality. As the social structure of Croatia becomes more progressive, so will the dynamic of women in the academic sector.

– Emily Triolet
Photo: Flickr