With statistics revealing that hundreds of women die each year at the hands of a husband or family members. Despite such a dismal state of affairs etched in print, society in Turkey ignores the issue blatantly and refuses to do anything whatsoever to equip women with a means to defend themselves. Would arming them be a means sufficient for them to take care of their plight?
A girl forced into marriage at 15, was welcomed with one liner. “You enter this house in a bridal gown, and you'll leave it in a coffin.” While she laughed it off as being a euphemistic line to depict how she’d live in the house until her last day on the planet, a cursory glance at her life thus far revealed a chilling reality. Four years of sexual assaults from her father-in-law, beatings by her husband, being shot at by her mother-in-law drove a different, eerie meaning for that welcome line. Several attempts to escape followed, where she hid in her family home. Complaints went to court, but her husband’s family threatened the poor girl and her family, which forced her to withdraw the complaint. Just 17 days of custody was awarded for the mother-in-law. The poor girl was beaten in her face with firewood when she asked for divorce. The girl finally escaped, and remained in hiding for 16 years, cut off from her family, cumbered by the difficulty of not being able to go to work, afraid to rent a house in her own name. She is still thankful, though, to be able to have found refuge and support.
Statistics in Turkey reveals that on an average, a woman dies each day in a domestic homicide, or in an “honour” related homicide. Sometimes these cases make the headlines, like that of Guldunya Toren in 2004. After being shot and left for dead allegedly by her brothers, Guldunya lay in a hospital bed. In a bit, a man claimed to be her relative and was allowed entry to visit her. He killed her while she was in hospital. Demonstrations aplenty followed – but the life was gone, extinguished, never to be retrieved again. Sadly, the state had neither interest in protecting her, nor a drive to hunt down her killers.
A women’s group, Sefkat Der, meaning compassion foundation, has called for a vigorous self-defence program for women. A move that is both commendable, as is daring. If the government wouldn’t protect them, they would have every means in their hands to take their own defence into their control.
It is time that the government of Turkey takes notice of the situation these women find themselves in. If they don’t, and neither have any plans to do so, it is only for the women themselves to defend themselves. What’s wrong in arming them, then? A government has the preponderant duty to take care of its people, by providing for their protection. But what is one left to do when the government itself doesn’t care?
By Kirthi Gita Jayakumar