Istanbul Convention stands on the violence against women and domestic violence by without concerning the gender or age of the victims of abuse. As an international agreement, it is treated differently by constitutions, and it also takes part differently in the hierarchies of their law systems. Turkey approved the constitution in 2011, and since the international treaty is about human rights and freedoms, it is accepted that it has a higher status than codes in the Turkish legal system. According to the specific articles of the Istanbul Convention, the parties take responsibility for all the women and victims of domestic violence who live in the borders of states. Accordingly, Turkey shall apply the necessities to protect the immigrants who live there. Thus, Turkey is liable to provide the prevention of violence against Syrian immigrant women in its borders.
Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence refers to an international treaty, called mostly as “Istanbul Convention.” The date of the entrance into force is 01/08/2014, with ten ratifications including eight member states. (CEO, n.d.) Throughout this article, the purposes, scope, and legal requirements of the Istanbul convention, its place on the hierarchy of norms in Turkey, and its impact and effects on Turkish Law will be mentioned orderly. After completing these steps, the findings about the emphasis on immigrant women in Istanbul Convention and regarding articles will be analyzed.
According to the treaty, the aims of the Istanbul Convention are
- To prevent women from all types of violence, and also eliminate domestic violence;
- contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination toward women and promote substantive equality between women and men, including by empowering women;
- plan a broad framework, policies, and measures for the assurance of and help to all victims of violence against women and domestic violence;
- encourage international co‐operation to eliminate violence against women and domestic violence;
- provide support and assistance to organizations and law enforcement agencies to effectively co‐operate to adopt an integrated approach to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence.
As indicated above, the purposes of the Istanbul Convention is based on the collaboration of party states. It is expected from the countries to apply specific regulations towards the articles of the treaty (Article 1). For instance, by article 4, all the forms of discrimination must be condemned in constitutions, and egalitarianism between men and women must be legalized. Also, the parties are responsible for raising awareness of citizens on gender inequalities and domestic violence (article 13). Therefore, to highlight the importance of equality between women and men, non‐stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non‐violent conflict resolution in relationships, gender-based violence, and the right to personal integrity, parties shall regulate some policies in formal and informal education facilities (article 14).
Secondly, as the scope of this treaty, the Convention shall apply to all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, which affects women disproportionately. Also, all the party states are promoted to apply this treaty to all victims of domestic violence, and it is expected from parties to pay particular attention to women victims of gender-based violence (article 2).
Istanbul Convention, as an international treaty, has a controversial place on the hierarchy of norms of diverse countries. In some states, such as Germany, Italy, and the USA, international treaties ratified by the legislature on the same level as executive acts. As a second assumption, the treaties ratified by the legislature with the ordinary majority may have the same effect as laws. Thirdly, international agreements approved by the legislature with the majority higher than required for the ordinary laws could have an authority superior to statutes. (Gözler,2016)
In Turkish Law, the status of international treaties is predicated by article 90. According to the article, “international agreements duly put into effect have the force of law.” Additionally, the constitution states that if there is a conflict between ordinary laws and international treaties on the fundamental rights and freedoms, international treaties shall prevail. As a result, it can be said that the Istanbul Convention, as highlights the human rights of women, should be superior to laws in the Turkish Legal System.
According to the article 4 of Istanbul Convention, it is highlighted that the parties should ensure the rights of victims without any discrimination standing on any ground such as sex, gender, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, state of health, disability, marital status, migrant or refugee status, or other status. In addition to this, by article 2, this convention is valid in times of peace and situations of armed conflict. By referring to the armed conflict, we can analyze the status of Syrian women who came to Turkey from the civil war in Syria to provide their safety.
Starting in 2011, due to the effects of the Arab Spring in Syria, this chaotic atmosphere turned into a civil war, many people moved to other countries, mainly Turkey, to ensure their safety. Today,1 million 644 thousand 400 women who moved from Syria are living in various conditions in Turkey. According to the Law of International Protection, there are four types of status of foreigners in Turkey: Refugee, conditional refugee, subsidiary refugee, and temporary protection (Directorate General of Migration Management). The last one, temporary protection, was regulated by the Council of Ministers in November 2014. Today, Syrian immigrants are legalized as under temporary protection, and this status gives them the right to utilize from the Istanbul Convention thanks to the protection of the Republic of Turkey.
As gender-based violence mainly and most commonly, Syrian women expose to the forced and polynomial marriages. This type of abuse is mostly based on cultural and religious grounds, and the displacement situation concretizes it. Additionally, according to AFAD reports, the women’s who came from Syria marriage rate between 15 and 18 years old is 15% (as cited in İstanbul Sözleşmesi Türkiye İzleme Platformu,2017) This issue shows us the opposition to article 37;
1 Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that the intentional conduct of forcing an adult or a child to enter into a marriage is criminalized.
2 Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that the intentional conduct of luring an adult or a child to the territory of a Party or State other than the one she or he resides in with the purpose of forcing this adult or child to enter into a marriage is criminalized.
Therefore, the convention expects from the states to provide safety of women under temporary protection and ensure the non-returns of victims of violence against women to the countries that are threats for them (Article 60). By concerning the Syrian women under temporary protection, there are some findings reported by GREVIO, Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. According to the Baseline Evaluation Report of Turkey, while officials emphasized that Syrian women have access to shelters equally with Turkish women, Syrian women are unaware of these institutions because of the language barrier and the lack of the Turkish legal system. Because of the not getting information, Syrian women are not able to seek support, and when they attempt to reach help, they may be sent to AFAD temporary centers instead of shelters. (GREVIO, 2018)
Accordingly, while Turkish authorities suggest that it would be best to leave the topics on violence against women with the leaders of Syrian communities in the camps and expect from them to deal with, GREVIO considers that it is important to inform women and girls. In addition to getting information, women and girls also should be able to access counseling and support from specialists.
Council of Europe. (2011). Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence [Ebook]. Retrieved from https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=090000168046031c
Council of Europe. (2015). Refugees Women and Istanbul Convention [Image]. Retrieved from https://edoc.coe.int/en/violence-against-women/6698-refugee-women-and-the-istanbul-convention.html
Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO). (2018). GREVIO Baseline Evaluation Report Turkey (p. 105). Strasbourg.
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Middle East Technical University – Political Science and Public Administration