The Istanbul Treaty is a convention that requires governments that have passed the convention through their parliaments to take a series of comprehensive measures to combat violence against women and all forms of domestic violence. Each article of the convention aims to prevent acts of violence from occurring, to assist victims, and to bring perpetrators to justice. The Convention requires criminalization of different forms of violence against women, such as domestic violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and psychological violence, and to impose legal sanctions against them.
The full name of the Istanbul Convention is “The Council of Europe Convention on Prevention of and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence”. It was opened for signature in Istanbul on May 11, 2011, and entered into force on August 1, 2014. It was named this way because it was opened for signature in Istanbul. In particular, violence against women and girls and bearing the characteristic of being the first European Convention on domestic violence targeted at the Convention so far has been approved by 34 countries including Turkey. Turkey signed the Convention was opened to the signature on 11 May 2011, it has confirmed March 14, 2012. Thus, Turkey became the first country to ratify the agreement.
What Is Istanbul Convention?
The draft law showing that the Council of Europe Convention relating to combating violence against women and domestic violence is appropriate has been enacted by the approval of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (Parliament) in 2011. The first signatory country was Turkey in the Istanbul Convention which was named this because it is opened for signature in Istanbul. The contract defines the concepts of violence against women, domestic violence, and gender-based violence against women.
The convention, which is the first binding document on violence against women and domestic violence in the international arena, includes the following: The Istanbul Convention includes psychological violence, stalking, physical violence, rape, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced abortion, forced sterilization, sexual violence including rape and harassment. It covers all types of violence against women. Within the framework of the contract, domestic violence is based on the protection of women, including all kinds of acts of violence between their current or former spouse or partners, whether they live in the same house or not.
Positioning women does not require being a “family”, a marital union, or sharing the same house. Obligations brought by the contract are primarily directed at government officials. The state must ensure that its officials acting on its behalf fulfill the requirements of the Istanbul Convention. States’ responsibility is not limited to this. Regardless of whether the perpetrator of the violence is the woman’s lover, husband, father, or boss, the duty of preventing, investigating, punishing, and compensating the violence belongs to the state.
The four basic principles of the convention are the prevention of all forms of violence against women and domestic violence, protection of victims of violence, prosecution of crimes, the punishment of criminals, and finally, the implementation of holistic, coordinated, and effective cooperation policies in the field of combating violence against women. The Istanbul Convention, which is a human rights-based convention against violence against women, allows not only punishment or abolition of impunity, but also allows women to live without fear, safety, violence, and discrimination, and to be compensated for the violence they are subjected to.
Detailed Information About Istanbul Convention
First of all, it should be noted that the Istanbul Convention does not only cover women. All family members including men – especially children – are covered by these regulations and this is clearly stated in both the Istanbul Convention and law no 6284. Those who can benefit from the regulations are not women but ‘victims’ regardless of whether they are men or women. The experience gained from violent incidents in many societies has clearly shown that; Victims of violence, mostly women, hide their cases of violence for a long time, fearing the pressure of the perpetrator and mostly the social environment.
Referral to the police or other competent authority often occurs when the victim begins to fear life. Once the violence reaches this level, it works against the victim every minute. For this reason, in the case of an application for protection, the judge can order an injunction order in favor of the victim of violence as an acute measure, since the evidence will take time. This decision has nothing to do with the Criminal Procedure, nor does it mean detention in any way. The party against whom a cautionary decision has been taken is given the right to appeal against the injunction decision.
The injunction against the person who proves to the court that the alleged victimization has not occurred is immediately lifted. In addition, these measures are not considered to be in the register of individuals. It only aims at avoiding the danger of violence. As every law can be abused in some way, the abuse of this regulation results in the removal of a person from home. Although this is a grievance, on the other hand, if every report is not taken seriously, the injury and loss of life that may occur is incomparably critical.
Although the convention does not only cover women, it mostly applies to women. Because women are subjected to violence more than men (forced abortion, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment and rape, stalking, sexual harassment, domestic violence, forced marriage, forced sterilization, etc.). These types of violence stem from the unequal power relations between men and women and discrimination against women. However, men are also subjected to some forms of violence covered by the Convention, such as domestic violence and forced marriage, often to a lesser extent and often to milder forms of violence. By accepting this fact in the convention, the state parties to the convention are encouraged to apply the provisions of the convention to all victims of domestic violence, including men, children, and the elderly. States can decide whether to apply the Convention to those victims of domestic violence.
Istanbul Convention and LGBT
The Convention does not contain any provision to establish a third type or to establish or promote LGBT tendencies as legal norms. It does not set new standards regarding sexual orientation, including the legal recognition of same-sex couples. To claim that this convention causes the legitimacy of homosexual orientations is malevolent, to say the least. The concept of “sexual orientation” is only mentioned in Article 4 of the Convention. No discrimination against anyone in the fight against violence in the article; It was emphasized that violence based on gender and sexual orientation should not be accepted together with many factors such as religion, language, race, etc. The article does not contain any imposition. All people are covered by the matter. It is unthinkable to keep any person outside the umbrella of protection from violence.
The issue frequently expressed in society as “the statement of the woman” is actually the statement of the victim of violence. The victim of violence can be a woman or a man. In addition, this part is mentioned in the law numbered 6284, not in the Istanbul Convention. The basis for the statement of the victim is valid only in temporary injunctions in order to protect the victim from the threat of death and violence in accordance with Law No. 6284. Violence is an inhumane phenomenon and it is the most damaging situation for family unity. It is not possible to talk about healthy family unity in a house where continuous violence is applied. Families made up of individuals who respect each other and have love and affection are not covered by the law. In fact, the measures in question are protective or preventive measures that can be taken at the request of the person concerned when violence occurs. No contract, text of the law, or measure requires interfering with the privacy of the family unless it is needed.
Although the mediation practice is a very appropriate legal regulation in general, one of the fundamental issues is the availability of the case to the mediation process. The issue of domestic violence, in which there is an unequal balance of power, has not been considered suitable for mediation by law. Instead, family therapists and psychologists, from whom every family can easily reach and receive help, achieve very positive results in this process. Anyway, reconciling spouses is a mechanism that can often work before problems become violent. Once the violence happens, it recurs and increases greatly. Especially, a reconciliation table where women who are subjected to such constant violence will sit with the perpetrator is not a realistic ground for discussion and reconciliation.
The Concept of Gender in the Istanbul Convention
“Gender” is not homosexuality or de-sexualization. Nor does it mean denial or neglect of biological sex. The concept of gender is used to describe the roles and duties imposed by cultures and societies on men and women. Gender equality means giving equal opportunity to women and men. In other words, this phrase does not mean the third gender. As it is known, the distribution of roles and duties assigned to women and men in society may not always take place in a fair and dignified manner. The concept of gender equality comes into play as soon as these roles create victimization for a woman or a man and try to provide justice. What is aimed here is not complete equality, but an equal opportunity that will eliminate injustices. Ultimately, each country determines its own policies for this purpose.
The Istanbul Convention and Law No. 6284 do not declare women as the superior gender. On the contrary, it is a protection for women against forms of violence to which women are subjected solely because they are women, such as humiliation, second-class human substitution, forced abortion, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, and rape, stalking, domestic violence, forced marriage, forced sterilization, etc. These discrimination situations that women are exposed to due to unequal power relations with men are not compatible with human and moral values and require special protection.
However, men are also exposed to some forms of violence covered by the Convention, such as domestic violence and forced marriage, and are able to benefit from Law No. Every citizen has an equal position in the implementation of laws. It is the greatest injustice to be made to the law of this country to claim that any law makes one oppress another, especially on the basis of gender.
It is not possible to turn family disputes into a public case. There is an act that constitutes a crime in the sense of the law in all cases that turn into public cases. Committing a crime is not an issue that can be left to the free will of individuals. For example, situations such as having disagreements, arguing, and making peace with a spouse are situations in which people act with their free will. However, situations such as beating, mutilating, or killing one’s spouse are not areas where they can act with their free will and are social issues, not within the family.
How Does the Istanbul Convention Protect Women?
According to the European Parliament, one in three women in European Union member states say they have been subjected to physical or sexual violence. In short, the Istanbul Convention aims to protect women from all kinds of violence and discrimination, to promote equality between women and men, to design a comprehensive framework, policies, and measures for these purposes, and to expand international cooperation on these issues. Taking into account that violence against women is an appearance of verifiably inconsistent force relations among genders and that these inconsistent force relations lead to the predominance of men over women, discrimination against women and the prevention of women’s full advancement, its acceptance in the union is recorded.
In order to ensure that the provisions of the convention are effectively implemented, a monitoring and supervision committee called the Group of Experts on Violence Against Women and Action Against Domestic Violence known as “GREVIO” is established. The convention which was opened for signature in Istanbul on May 11, 2011, and thus named the ‘Istanbul Convention’ refers to Violence against Women and Domestic Violence Prevention and the first country signed it became Turkey. It is stated that the convention will be valid both in peacetime and in situations of armed conflict.
The contract first talks about preventive measures. Create a society in which violence cannot dare. This is also an egalitarian society. Spread gender equality to the whole of society by all means, including education. Second, you may not be able to create such a society right away, violence is an old and deep-rooted problem, treating the contracting states with understanding. If you cannot create such a society right away, he says, if there is a threat, protect women effectively and actively. In other words, it says to apply the law numbered 6284 fully for us. In the third step, it says that you could not create a preventive society, you wanted to protect the woman, but you could not, if a woman was hurt, then at least make effective prosecution and an effective criminal system, ensure justice.
Finally, the contract is no longer savvy but demanding. Even if you are doing these things, it says show me how to empower women for the future. In the convention, the definition of “violence against women” includes all forms of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence, threats of violence, and discrimination, whether it occurs “in public or private life”.
It is stated that the convention can cover girls under the age of 18. The convention obliges the parties to take “necessary legal and other measures” to prevent all kinds of acts of violence and discrimination and calls for activities to strengthen women. With the convention, the parties are obliged to include the principle of equality of women and men in their national constitutions or other relevant legislation and to ensure the implementation of this principle, to prohibit discrimination against women, and to abolish laws and practices that discriminate against women.
While the provisions of the convention are being implemented, it is emphasized that discrimination cannot be made on the basis of “sexual orientation” as well as the identity characteristics of people. State officials and institutions are required to act in accordance with the obligations of the contract. The parties are asked to allocate the necessary financial and human resources to fulfill the provisions of the contract, as well as to support the work of non-governmental organizations that play an active role in the fight against women and to cooperate with these organizations.
The Convention expresses that gatherings will take measures to help change the cultural and social standards of conduct of men and women so as to destroy biases, traditions, customs, and different practices dependent on the conviction that women are mediocre or the socially stereotypical roles of both genders. The contract refers to the concept of “honor”, saying “The parties will ensure that concepts such as culture, custom, religion, tradition or so-called ‘honor’ are not used as a justification for any act of violence within the scope of this convention.”
In the convention, the parties are asked to encourage all members of society, especially youth and men, to actively contribute to the prevention of all forms of violence. It emphasizes the importance of education in order to prevent all kinds of violence. In the official curriculum, issues such as gender equality, gender roles free from social stereotypes, mutual respect, the non-violent resolution of conflicts in personal relationships, gender-based violence against women, and respect for personality integrity are required to be included in a way adapted to students’ learning capacities.
The convention obliges the parties to take the necessary measures for the dissemination of these principles in non-formal education as well as in sports, cultural and entertainment facilities, and media. The parties are also requested to establish training programs to prevent violence in the future, especially for those who attempt domestic violence to adopt acts that exclude violence. Similarly, training programs are requested for those who attempt sexual crimes.
State Level Claims of the Istanbul Convention
The Istanbul Convention stands out amongst the international texts accepted within the scope of combating violence against women. As of March 2019, the convention has been signed by 46 states and the European Union. This new convention of the Council of Europe on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence is an international agreement that deals with this problem, which constitutes a serious violation of human rights, in the most comprehensive way. It focuses on zero tolerance to bear this kind of violence and is a significant advance towards guaranteeing more secure living in Europe and a more extensive zone past its outskirts.
Preventing violence, protecting victims, and bringing perpetrators to justice are the cornerstones of this convention. Also, it means to change the soul and contemplations of people by welcoming each individual from the general public, particularly men and young men, to change their mentalities. Essentially, it is a re-call for greater equality between men and women; This is because the roots of violence against women are rooted in inequality between men and women in society and are sustained as a result of a culture of tolerance and denial. Here are the demands of the Istanbul Convention at the state level:
- Changing attitudes, gender roles, and stereotypes that cause acceptance of violence against women;
- Training of professional staff working on victims;
- Bringing issues to light of various sorts of viciousness and their traumatic features;
- Counting issues tending to balance in the educational program at all degrees of instruction;
- Cooperating with NGOs, media, and the private sector in order to reach the public.
- Of all measures, ensuring that the greatest attention is paid to the needs and safety of victims;
- Organizing specialized support services that provide medical assistance as well as psychological and legal advice to victims and their children;
- Provide an adequate number of shelters and free telephone helplines available around the clock.
- Guaranteeing that brutality against women is condemned and that the essential punishments are forced;
- Guaranteeing that the grounds of the convention, custom, religion, or honor are not acknowledged as a reason for any demonstration of savagery;
- Guaranteeing that victims profit by unique protection measures during the examination and preliminary cycle;
- Ensuring that law enforcement officials can immediately go to help seekers and respond competently in dangerous situations.
Ensure that all the above measures are part of comprehensive and coordinated policies, and ensure a holistic response to violence against women. The convention obliges the states parties to impose criminal or other legal sanctions for the following behaviors:
- domestic violence (physical, sexual, psychological, or economic)
- sexual violence, including rape;
- sexual harassment;
- forced marriage;
- circumcision of women;
- forced abortion and forced sterilization.
The clear message here is that violence against women and domestic violence are not the issues to be hidden in private life. Despite what might be expected, if the casualty is the companion, accomplice, or relative of the culprit, that individual’s punishment can be additionally aggravated to emphasize the particularly traumatic effect of crimes committed within the family.
F.A.Q About Istanbul Convention
The official name of the Istanbul Convention, which was opened for signature at the Council of Ministers meeting of the Council of Europe held in Istanbul on 11 May 2011, is the Council of Europe Convention on Prevention of Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence and Combating Them. The convention, which aims to prevent violence against women and domestic violence in general, is the first international document to be legally binding on this issue.
The Istanbul Convention defines the concept of “gender” and draws attention to the existence of roles that society assigns to individuals based on gender, and structural violence against women. The convention underlines that psychological and economic violence against women is also a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination. It gives state parties responsibilities such as preventing gender-based violence, effectively investigating and prosecuting these cases of violence, adhering to the principle of equality. It sees violence as a result of inequality and reminds that policies that will ensure gender equality should be developed.
- Does the convention disrupt the traditional family structure?
There is no definition of “family” in the contract, nor is there a regulation that encourages a certain family form or environment. The convention is to keep the initiatives to prevent violence against women and domestic violence as inclusive as possible and to ensure that measures and protection mechanisms can be used by women who are subjected to violence in all kinds such as physical, sexual, emotional, economic, whether married or not, in the home or in the public sphere.
- Does the convention encourage homosexuality, LGBTI + marriages?
These allegations stem from the expression “sexual orientation” in the fourth article of the contract. With this article, the state parties are given the duty to implement the provisions of the convention by considering the principle of equality and without any discrimination; Naturally, this includes protecting the rights of the victim of domestic violence regardless of sexual orientation. However, the contract does not contain any phrase “encouraging homosexuality”. In addition, the convention does not impose an obligation on the state parties to support same-sex marriages.
- Since femicide has increased since the contract was signed, can the convention be considered insufficient to protect women?
With the presence of the women’s rights struggle and binding texts such as the Istanbul Convention, it is evident that domestic violence is more visible and a strong public opinion is formed around the issue. Regardless of the political and sociological reasons behind the increase in murder cases, it is far from a realistic inference to establish causality between the signing of a contract and the increase in numbers. In a scenario where the convention and the values it aims to protect cannot be internalized, the stipulated mechanisms cannot be implemented, the positive obligations imposed on the state parties are not fulfilled, it would not be the right approach to present the convention as responsible for the increasing violence against women.
- Does the convention make men a victim based on the statement of the woman in any case?
According to Law No. 6284 on the Protection of Family and Prevention of Violence Against Women, which entered into force pursuant to the contract, the statement of the woman is taken as a basis for applying measures, not to establish a provision. The presumption of innocence remains valid during the trial. Saying “the statement of the woman is essential” means that the woman who declares that she is under the threat of violence is included in the protection mechanisms without seeking additional evidence. In other words, the statement of the woman is not a verdict, but a basis for taking protective measures and initiating an investigation.
- Does the convention give women indefinite maintenance and victimization of men?
There is no regulation in the Istanbul Agreement regarding alimony. The provision on poverty alimony, which can be decided to be indefinite, is in Article 175 of the Civil Code. The poverty alimony that the party falling into poverty due to the divorce may demand is not a right granted to women, but poverty alimony can be awarded on the condition that it provides the conditions for men.
- Is the convention driving men away from home and causing families to break up?
The convention imposes the obligation on the state parties to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of women, which should be guaranteed by international conventions, in particular the right to life. It reminds us that the violation of these rights is a crime and that this crime should not be excused by the importance attributed to the family institution, social values , or honor discourses, and that all forms of violence should be prevented in all cases. Men who commit violence, not men, are removed from the home if deemed necessary, as the security of other members of the household cannot be ignored.