2014 proves regressive year for Turkish women’s rights
Violence against women is a growing problem in Turkey, with an increase in murders of women and a lack of protection and support provided by the government.
“It has been a bad year in terms of the political will to end violence against women,” Şehnaz Kıymaz Bahçeci, from the Women for Women's Human Rights -- New Ways (WWHR -- New Ways) Association, a nongovernmental organization, told Today's Zaman in a phone interview on Wednesday.
“We have seen clear declarations from the government, including the president himself, stating inequality among men and women. These declarations actually form the mindset that violence against women cannot be confined,” Bahçeci explained.
She also highlighted that Turkey was the first country to sign and ratify the Council of Europe's Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the İstanbul Convention, which states that combating violence against women can be done by establishing equality among men and women within a society; therefore, Turkey's leaders are acting in opposition to the convention.
Local women's rights organizations, such as the We Will Stop the Murders of Women Platform, are very critical of what they view to be ineffectiveness on the part of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) regarding the protection of women in Turkey. The murder rate of women has increased by a considerable 1,400 percent, according to the Diyarbakır branch of the Women's Commission of the Human Rights Association (İHD) during their 2012 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women meeting. In light of this, the We Will Stop the Murders of Women Platform frequently calls on Family and Social Policy Minister Ayşenur İslam to recognize the gravity of the issue at hand.
One highlight of this year's International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women conference in İstanbul was when Fikriye Yılmaz of the platform was forcibly removed from the event while attempting to ask İslam how many women had been murdered this year.
It was during the same conference that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed that men and women are not equal.
In the month of November alone, 18 women were murdered at the hands of men; 28 percent of the victims were killed because they were trying to leave their significant others, according to the Bianet online news portal. Sixty-one percent of women were killed by their husbands or boyfriends, and 16 percent died at the hands of former husbands or boyfriends.
Furthermore, in the first 11 months of 2014, 253 women were killed, 98 women and girls were raped, 523 experienced violence, and 104 women and girls were sexually assaulted. This is an increase from last year, when 213 women were reported to have been murdered by men.
While many often assume that violence remains a problem in rural areas and among the uneducated classes, a report titled “Domestic Violence Against White-Collar Working Women In Turkey: A Call For Business Action” shared that 75 percent of college-educated women working in white-collar positions have been abused by men at least once in their lives, while only 12 percent report their cases. The report, which surveyed the experiences of 1,715 female employees from 19 different companies, shared that 40 percent of all women have experienced psychological and/or emotional abuse.
“Violence does not only affect women, it affects society as a whole,” said Unites Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Turkey representative Zeynep Başaran Kurtkan during Sabancı University's Corporate Management Forum at the Sabancı Center in İstanbul on Tuesday. “These situations affect the companies themselves, and the development of society as a whole,” Kurtkan added.
"We cannot tolerate a world where victims of violence feel humiliated and live with their fear, and [one in which they often] do not report their experiences,” said Dutch Consul-General in İstanbul Robert Schuddeboom during the opening ceremony of the forum. “We cannot tolerate a world where the perpetrators of violence are not punished, where women cannot hold their heads high and meet justice,” the consul-general further stated