A decade ago, Turkey was the first nation to sign an international treaty meant to protect women from domestic violence. In March, the nation was stunned when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced he'd issued a decree to pull out of the Istanbul Convention, and on Thursday, that withdrawal was made official, reports CNN. Thousands were expected to protest around the country after a court appeal that tried to stop the disengagement was turned down this week. Canan Gullu, head of the Federation of Turkish Women's Associations, said "Turkey is shooting itself in the foot with this decision" on the pact, which made signees vow to prevent domestic violence, hold perpetrators accountable, and promote equality. Turkish conservatives, however, especially in Erdogan's AK Party, said the pact undermined family values, with some claiming that, due to its efforts to stop discrimination based on sexual orientation, it promoted homosexuality.
Erdogan says critics are making too big of a deal about Turkey pulling out. "Some circles are trying to portray our withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention as a step backwards in our battle with violence against women," he said Thursday at a meeting in Ankara, per Reuters. "Our battle did not start with the Istanbul Convention and it will not end with our withdrawal from the treaty." At that meeting, Erdogan announced an updated "action plan" for dealing with domestic violence, laying out such goals as overhauling current legislation and raising awareness, per the Hurriyet Daily News. "We will eliminate approaches that make violence against women ordinary," he said. "Combating violence against women can only be successful with the participation and genuine contribution of the whole society." (Read more Turkey stories.)