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  • Dilara Kent

Does the Istanbul Convention save lives?

In 2002, a citizen of Turkey named Nahide Opuz filed charges against her husband 36 times to the state authorities on the grounds that her husband resorted to violence and threatened her and her family [1]. In the end, she filed suit against the Government of Turkey to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for the reason that the Government could not protect her [1]. With the judgment of the ECHR on 9 June 2009, the state paid compensation to Nahide Opuz, but the story did not end there. The Opuz case inspired The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention.

The ECHR ruled that Turkey could not protect the women/citizens from violent people that get strange from tradition, honor, and gender discrimination [1]. In order to prove that this provision was wrong, Turkey has ratified the Convention immediately and became the first country to ratify.

As it is seen, this contract has emerged based on violence to a human being. Contrary to the common belief currently discussed, this Convention is not only about women. It does not encourage positive discrimination. It includes anyone who may be a victim of violence. It does not discriminate with regard to sexual orientation or gender expression.

But for some reason, we suddenly found ourselves discussing the acceptivity of the LGBT+ community and stereotyped gender roles while we were trying to defend the necessity of the Istanbul Convention, and women who were killed by their ex-lovers, partners, or even rejected stranger men.

Even though Turkey is the first country to sign, currently, the contract is proposed to be revoked on the grounds that it is against the Turkish family structure and Islamic rules. People who object to the Convention claim that it constitutes to disrupt the social construct and break the stereotyped gender roles. However, as opposed to this belief, the Istanbul Convention has been formed to strengthen the social construct, and decontaminate violence from society. To do this, it aims to protect victims and their rights, punish perpetrators or rehabilitate them if necessary.

Only in Article 4/3, concepts such as sexual orientation and gender identity have been used in addition to other notions to emphasize that the victim of violence should be protected from violence without any discrimination due to their sexual orientation or sexual identity [2]. In fact, through this article, also LGBTI+ individuals exposed to domestic violence can demand punishment for perpetrators, and support of the state.

According to research conducted in 2014, 36 percent of married women in Turkey are exposed to physical violence in their lives by their spouses, fiances, or boyfriends [3]. For the same group of women, the rate of sexual violence is 12 percent. Gender-based violation happens everywhere, be it at home or in public, in every society and also EU countries, regardless of social background.

• ”One in three women in the EU has been a victim of physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15;

• One in 20 women have been raped;

• Over half (55%) of women have experienced sexual harassment;

• One in three women has experienced psychological abusive behavior by a partner;

• One in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an adult during childhood.” [4]

By ratifying the convention, Turkey has shown that the rights of women, children, and each individual exposed to violence are protected. Although we are not successful in the implementation part, the cancellation of this Convention will destroy this step we have taken. It is the most comprehensive and significant legal instrument not only in Europe and Turkey but at the global level to prevent violence against people without discrimination on any ground. Although the Istanbul Convention can not outrightly save the lives right now, it promises hope for all humanity, especially women whose lives have been taken away.






Council of Europe, «Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence,» İstanbul, 2011.


BBC, «İstanbul Sözleşmesi nedir: Kadın örgütleri neden sözleşmeden yana, karşı çıkanlar ne diyor?,» 2019.


V. Jourová, «Istanbul Convention: Combatting violence against women,» European Commission, 2016.

Istanbul Convention, İstanbul Sözleşmesi, Women Rights, Women, Turkey, Human Rights, Change4humanity, Blog Post, Dilara Kent

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