Black-and-White Photo Challenge Moves From Feminist Struggle in Turkey to Just Another Social Trend

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Unless you’re living under a rock, you may have seen several women posting black-and-white photos and accepting some kind of “challenge” on Instagram.

The truth behind the trend is much more complicated.

“Challenge accepted ladies! Women supporting women! So many women to tag and thank,” wrote actress Eva Longoria while posting her picture on the social platform.

Dania J. Ramirez, Alex Meneses, Zoe Saldana, and several other Latina voices followed suit, as did millions of other users.

However, although the premise of the initiative was to create a network of support among women, the background to the challenge was lost in the cracks of social media trends.

Some outlets like The New York Times reported Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padrao was the first to share a black-and-white image more than a week ago. Still, the feminist community in Turkey has another version of the issue.

“Turkish people wake up every day to see a black and white photo of a woman who has been murdered on their Instagram feed, on their newspapers, on their TV screens,” Instagram user @beelzeboobs wrote. “The black and white photo challenge started as a way for women to raise their voice. To stand in solidarity with the women, we have lost. To show that one day, it could be their picture that is plastered across news outlets with a black and white filter on top.”

Other users have started a social media awareness campaign explaining how Turkey is one of the countries with the highest rate of gender-based violence globally, with almost 500 femicides registered by 2019 alone.

“The government and our justice system does nothing to stop these crimes,” @beelzeboobs explained. “Most often the murderers barely get a slap on the wrist or no charges at all.”

Protests against femicide in Turkey have increased following the death of Pinar Gültekin, a 27-year-old student who died after her boyfriend beat her and strangled her in a jealous rage, and proceeded to attempt to dispose of the body.

Women across the country, especially in the West, took to the streets, facing police violence in many cities, according to national media reports.

The real challenge is for the Istanbul Convention

After the victory of Polish President Andrzej Duda, Europe sounded the alarm for far-right nationalism and its collaterals; among them, the threat to women’s rights across the continent.

According to The Guardian, the Council of Europe has expressed concern over statements by Poland’s Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ziobro, who shared his intentions to withdraw from the historic international treaty to prevent violence against women called the Istanbul Convention.

Conceived as the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, the human rights treaty was signed on May 11, 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey, by 45 countries and the European Union.

The Convention contains 81 separate articles in 12 chapters and is based on the so-called “four Ps”: Prevention, Protection and support of victims, Prosecution of offenders, and Integrated Policies, based on the immovable fact that any violence against women is a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination.

Any country that has signed the convention must criminalize several offenses, including psychological violence (Art.33); stalking (Art.34); physical violence (Art.35); sexual violence, including rape, explicitly covering all engagement in non-consensual acts of a sexual nature with a person (Art.36), forced marriage (Art.37); female genital mutilation (Art.38), forced abortion and forced sterilization (Art.39).

For Ziobro, the agreement is “an invention, a feminist creation aimed at justifying gay ideology.”

For its part, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has asserted Turkey’s right to withdraw from the Convention, even though it is the signatory with the highest rate of femicide.

Politician Meral Aksener, a member of the IYI (Good) Party, said at her party’s parliamentary group meeting: “No fabricated agenda will change the fact that the country has the highest level of violence against women among 34 OECD countries. Recently, 27-year-old Pınar Gültekin was murdered. Turkey has to get rid of this embarrassment.”

“We will destroy the world if any woman even sheds a tear, and we will build a new one,” she said.

“Men and women must love every individual. Therefore, I invite Mr. Erdoğan to try to implement it instead of canceling the Istanbul Convention,” she stated.