Cries for change could be heard all around the world Aug 5 as Turkish women took to the streets chanting “The choice is ours, the decision is ours, the night is ours, the streets are ours!”. These women were protesting President Erdogan’s consideration to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention: a pact to end gender-based violence.
Women taking action against gender-based violence has increased exponentially in recent years. In 2019 a total of 419 women were murdered, the death tolls this year have reached 201 women according to Balkan Insight.
“The coalitions the protest has engendered have been heartwarming and inspiring–activists are working across party lines in Turkey to protest systemic violence against women.” Said Professor of English and Gender Studies Maya Dora-Laskey. “Further when prominent detractors have cited their opposition of LGBTQ values as the reason for the withdrawal, activists have refused to let themselves be conned by this sort of patriarchal divide-and conquer tactic.”
The protests, however, did not just take place on Turkish soil, many American women took to social media in support of the convention. Hundreds of celebrities and other women posted black and white photos of themselves with the caption #ChallengeAccepted and #WomenSupportingWomen. This challenge, however, sparked major controversy according to CNN, it was said to be distracting from the actual social justice issue occurring.
“I think the Instagram challenge is really good for raising awareness, but it immediately ends there,” said Kate Stymiest (’21), “Raising awareness is only the first step and these challenges give online social justice warriors an easy way out.”
The social media challenge has changed many forms over the last few days, many claiming that any awareness is still awareness.
“While there have been charges leveled against those who participated in the photo “challenge” that range from co-optation and slacktivism to narcissism, the B&W challenge was reported to have generated 8.5 million posts,” said Dora-Laskey, “That is a lot of attention and awareness generated for an important cause that is often ignored. I’m notoriously camera-shy and have found other ways to contribute; but I’m proud and happy for those who participated–any level of participation is better than apathy.”
This social justice movement is not the first of its kind, Turkish Feminists have called for change since 1930. Their need for emancipation created the Turkish Women’s Union and banded together with the IAW (International Alliance of Women) who held their convention in Turkey circa 1935.
According to the IAW the convention served as a merge between western and eastern feminists. The conventions goal is to address systematic violence and aims to prevent domestic abuse leading to mass femicide. In the following years, the convention gained many rights for women across the globe thus, bolstering civil liberties for Turkish women.
Speaking on topics such as Sex Trafficking, Domestic violence and a plethora of laws that hinder women’s rights. In recent years Turkish woman have rallied and called for change in unfair dress codes, domestic violence, and the rising murder rate within the country.
When asking faculty and staff at Alma what they believed would happen if Turkey was to pull out of the convention, a barrage of hypotheses was given with relatively the same result.
“Turkey has a long history of constitutional rights for women (since 1930!) so this development is particularly unfortunate and made even more so by the fact that the withdrawal the Turkish government is contemplating was signed in the Turkish city of Istanbul and is popularly known as the Istanbul Convention!” said Dora-Laskey.
“Any refusal to enact or stay apart of legislature that protects women will leave women more vulnerable than they are already are,” said Stymiest. “The protection of women needs to be at the forefront of every policy in every country and failure to do so will leave women left out and in turn, keep the whole country in arrears.”
Ways you can help Turkish women would be signing the petition to keep the convention on Change.Org.
According to KQued, the Women Against Child Sexual Abuse has also put together a letter and provided the emails of representatives from the Central Executive Committee of the Justice and Development Party, in effort to keep the Istanbul Convention.