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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 16, New Delhi, April 3, 2021

Don’t let the Istanbul Convention die! Manifesto against the restriction of women’s rights in Central and Eastern Europe

Friday 2 April 2021

The following manifesto was written by Romanian comrades, who held a solidarity event with Turkish women on 25th March in front of the Turkish Embassy in Bucharest.

On the night of 19th to 20th March, the President of Turkey decided to withdraw the country from the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. He allegedly argued that under the Convention’s protection, the family unit is destroyed, divorces are encouraged, and equality for LGBTQIA+ people is promoted. He made clear the desire to re-establish the family as a patriarchal and violent institution to suppress sexual freedom. Since the beginning of 2020, approximately 370 Turkish women died because of domestic violence. Since its adoption in 2011, the Convention has offered legal protection to local, migrant, and refugee women in Turkey, as well as LGBTQIA+ people, even though public funds to combat male-incited violence have been gradually reduced.

This type of attack is not new for other countries in Central and Eastern Europe either. In Poland, the Constitutional Court decided to ban abortion in all cases, provoking the biggest street demonstrations of Polish women since the 1980s. At the same time, the authorities also tried to withdraw the country from the Istanbul Convention. Bulgaria has declared the Convention unconstitutional since 2018. In Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Georgia, and the Balkan countries, the rights of women, trans and queer people, ethnic and sexual minorities, as well as migrants, have been dramatically restricted over the past years, with politicians referring to economic reasons or conservative values to protect the idea of the traditional family.

Romania subscribes to this trend, having registered increased domestic violence cases during the pandemic and limiting public discourse about sex education. The refusal to perform abortions practiced by hospitals during the pandemic meant the curtail of our constitutional right to health services and our reproductive rights. Moreover, female workers have faced a higher increase in the rate of unemployment and socio-economic vulnerability than men. Women who work in the essential sectors are being exploited. Some jobs, such as sex work or unpaid domestic work, are still criminalized or unrecognized. Attempts were also made to restrict the rights of LGBTQIA+ people by attempting to forbid teaching about gender identity in educational institutions. That’s enough! We see how we risk slipping down the same dangerous slope of patriarchy and state authoritarianism.

We continue to refuse to be silenced by the attempts of the patriarchy to limit our hard-won rights. We will not accept attempts to control our lives, bodies, labors, and voices. We took to the streets on the 8th of March to claim our rights. Now we are stepping up again in solidarity with women in Turkey and around the world because silence in the face of oppression is not an option! Our struggle has never been and will not remain just a local issue. We will continue to strengthen our forces and organize ourselves in transnational solidarity networks against patriarchal violence, capitalist exploitation, racism, and xenophobia.

Kadin Cinayetleri Politiktir! – Crimes against women are political!

Istanbul Sözlesmesi Yaathanr! – Don’t let the Istanbul Convention die!


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