“Not all men have willpower. If vulgarity continues to increase, it will have consequences.” This phrase directed at women was uttered by Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, when asked what his Government is doing to curb the increase in cases of sexual violence against women and girls. Pakistan is just one example of the countries that, far from implementing policies aimed at the protection and eradication of sexist violence, continue with a discourse of criminalization and lack of protection of women.
However, it is not necessary to go to the Asian continent to observe this type of measures from the institutions. Turkey has made two decisions in this regard in recent weeks. The first was its departure from the Council of Europe Convention for the prevention of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, because it was signed in the Turkish city in 2011. The second was just ago one week, when The decree that established violence by the husband towards his wife as a crime was annulled, allowing it again and thus satisfying the most conservative Islamist wing of Turkey.
The Convention, drawn up by the Council of Europe, states that “violence against women and domestic violence represent in Europe one of the most serious violations of the rights of the person grounded in gender, and remains buried in a blanket of silence. It aims for states to implement policies to eradicate this type of violence, but there are still nine other countries – in addition to Turkey – that have not ratified it. These are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Hungary, the latter, together with Poland, are considered internationally aligned states in many respects with the Turks.
While most countries are advancing at different speeds in the fight against sexist violence, others are moving backwards on the path they have achieved. In addition, they do it at a delicate moment, as he explains to 20Minutos Maribel Tellado, Campaign Manager at Amnesty International: “There are states that are denying their obligation to protect women and are trying to undermine rights that have been hard to achieve. They are also doing so at a time when the pandemic has multiplied gender violence worldwide. The case of Turkey is flagrant, because it was the first to ratify the Convention and sends a dangerous message to Europe, after having registered 266 women killed as a result of gender violence in the past 2020. ”
“The institutions of many countries do not fight against sexist violence and also violently repress civil society that does”
Turkey tops a list with countries from around the world
The country led by Erdogan is not the only one that practices a policy that ignores or promotes sexist violence. Within Europe, Hungary and Poland follow the Turkish trail. The Poles have even raised with the Constitutional Court whether membership of the Istanbul Convention is within the legal framework or what is proposed violates current norms. “This same Court was the one that vetoed the possibility of abortion in cases of serious malformation, which is the majority in the country,” Tellado clarifies. For its part, Hungary, which doubled the number of complaints of gender violence during the months of confinement, has a statement prepared by the congress to not ratify the Convention and described as “political whining” the protests that took place calling for annexation to the international agreement.
Beyond European borders, where anti-feminist currents are already present in all countries, there are other states where machismo and the culture of violence against women are fully established. Iran or Saudi Arabia are two countries where there is a male guardianship system, “which treats women as second-class people. They need the permission of a male legal guardian for many issues such as guardianship of daughters or to circulate alone and freely, “explains Tellado. In addition, from the institutions, far from implementing measures for equality are dedicated to persecuting activists who promote women’s rights, to silence dissenting voices and ensure that the the status quo.
On the other side of the Atlantic, in Latin America, the situation is not much better. The most striking case is that of Mexico, where in 2020 there were nearly 1,000 deaths certified as gender violence and the demonstrations – mostly peaceful – are violently repressed by the authorities. “Most of the institutions in many of these countries do not fight against sexist violence and also violently repress civil society that does,” they say from Amnesty International. On the other hand, Brazil is another of the Latin countries where The number of femicides continues to grow since 2019, when it increased by 7.2%. His government, led by Bolsonaro, modified the law to facilitate access to the possession of weapons and included a provision to reduce criminal penalties when homicides are committed “under stress,” despite the fact that this last point was not approved. The measure was made to stop drug trafficking, but several women’s associations denounce that it encourages femicide.
Why is this current of thought growing against fighting to eradicate gender violence?
The reasons behind these types of policies that propose setbacks in the fight against sexist violence are diverse. “Many excuses are used, which are ultimately false accusations. Many argue that they are trying to overturn traditional values or that they are trying to normalize homosexuality. In reality, what they hide behind is misogynistic logic and in many cases homophobic. In the background what there is is an absolute disregard for the rights of women and girls. They seek to keep women in inferior conditions, “says Tellado. This occurs mainly in countries where religion has a great political influence and they see women’s rights as an attack on their perception of values, using all its mechanisms to that they do not succeed.
On the other hand, the educational aspect is one of the keys to maintaining the superiority of men over women. Many of the countries mentioned are aware of this and educate with that orientation. They are inculcated from the time they are girls to normalize violence by men, internalizing that they are inferior. In this way, they ensure that dissenting voices -which are very often persecuted- have little strength, because in their mentality this discourse is contrary to their customs and what they are used to, so they reject it and maintain the current order.
The Amnesty International expert exemplifies this situation in a concise way: “While we were working on a report on the situation of women in sub-Saharan Africa, an activist explained to us that in Mozambique girls are taught that the husband beats his wife if he really loves him. It links love with gender violence, which translates into the total perversion of the story, so that it is internalized and perceived as something natural and even good. “
In this way, in the middle of the year 2021 it can be seen how until relatively recently most states fought in one way or another against gender-based violence. Now, Instead of advancing at different speeds, there are countries that have decided to turn around and move in the opposite direction, also trying to convince others that this is the right path. However, while avoiding the countries that are on the right path, thousands of women pay the consequences of this type of policy every day and with their lives.