Women in Turkey are currently living under a State of Emergency – following the failed coup attempt on the 15th of July – in which the government has not only targeted the opposition, journalists, activists, teachers, workers, academics (including feminist academics, as well as those who’ve spoken out for peace) in general, but is also trying to push for a major change in the political system. We are currently at the brink of a referendum where a “Turkish-style” presidential system, in which almost all powers shall be handed over to the president himself, is to be voted by the public (16 April).
We are frequently subjected to statutory decrees and the replacement of elected persons (whether mayors or university presidents) with appointed administrators by the government. Hundreds of associations have been shut down through statutory decrees. These organizations that work for children’s rights, for peace, for an end to violence and discrimination, for equality, justice and freedom have been barred from activity.
Another important issue is systematic male violence and the killing of women. The State doesn’t release any official statistics on the number of women murdered in Turkey, so there’s no way for us to have an accurate idea regarding the numbers. Numbers gathered through media and applications to women’s centers say that one or more women are killed by men every single. At least 26 women have been killed in the first month of this new year and this number is at least 261 in 2016 – and these are only cases that have been reported by the media.
While this is the case, the state has also been shutting down various women’s consultation centers, citing that many of the women who come to these places end up getting divorced. Preventing divorce seems to prevail over preventing violence against women – a similar approach was manifested in a report by the Parliamentary Committee on Divorce (in May 2016), which considered rising divorce rates as the main problem in the country. There are official units formed only to reunite women with their husbands if they have attempted to divorce in order to prevent ‘families from falling apart’. Yet the majority of women killed are murdered by their husbands or partners for wishing to divorce, separate or refusing to make up. Many are killed upon being made to return to homes where they were subjected violence after having attempted to leave.
Not only are women’s consultation centers and associations being shut down in this manner, but administrators appointed by the government to municipalities as a replacement of their elected mayors (especially in the Kurdish region) have been closing down women’s units and shelters operated by municipalities as well. Especially in Kurdish towns, where women have great reason to mistrust the police due to constant state violence and the current escalation of war in a manner that puts civilians in the target of special operations forces, these units, shelters and associations are the only means women have to escaping violence. They have now been left without such means.
Religious institutions are also being rendered more and more influential as they are allowed greater control over domains such as student dormitories. The result is the sexual exploitation of at least 368 children in the past year, with 59% of this exploitation occurring in educational institutions. There is no adequate legal procedure carried with regards to these religious institutions in response, since some are known to have close ties with the government.
The rise of religiously-motivated conservatism makes it more difficult for women to access abortion in practice, although it is not banned by law – mostly thanks to women’s struggles in the past years. Many doctors in public hospitals refuse to practice it without consent from a woman’s husband or father, making abortion effectively only accessible to those who are able to go to private hospitals.
We women in Turkey hear the sound of the revolt resounding across the world and add our voices to it:
- Against all forms of male violence,
- Against those who disregard our choices and decisions about our own bodies and sexuality,
- Against those who seek to ban abortion or intervene into our decisions to have children or not,
- Against the marginalization of our life styles, choices, opinions and desires,
- Against the ever-greater imposition of having to labour without job security or any prospects for the future, and against those who keep us in check through impoverishment (or its constant threat),
- Against the wars and cross-border operations we are entrenched in, foreign intervention and support to armed groups, the displacement of entire lives through war both within Turkey itself and globally, and the rendering of our bodies into battlefields in this process,
- Against racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamist or Islamophobic politics spreading hate and animosity locally and globally,
- And against all those trying to bog us down in hopelessness, despair and lack of belief regarding the current state and future of our country, attempting to lock us up into our homes and isolate us within individualistic life styles through oppression, tyranny and violence!
La noche del jueves 17 de noviembre de 2016 el partido gobernante “Justicia y Desarrollo (AKP, por sus siglas en inglés) presentó un proyecto de ley a la Asamblea General del GNAT (Grand National Assembly of Turkey). El proyecto de ley propone la suspensión y consecuente perdón después del período de prescripción de los delitos de acoso sexual perpetrados antes del 16 de noviembre de 2016, si el autor se casa con la víctima.
Además de este proyecto de ley, el partido gobernante discute actualmente la reducción de la edad de consentimiento para las relaciones sexuales a 12 años, mediante la introducción de enmiendas al artículo 103 del Código Penal Turco, a pesar de las objeciones mantenidas por las organizaciones de mujeres. Si el artículo 103 pasa a la ley como se sugirió arriba, la mayoría de los perpetradores que están actualmente en juicio o que serán juzgados como acusados de abuso sexual tendrán el derecho de afirmar que “la niña dio su consentimiento” y evitarán así el castigo. Por lo tanto, las enmiendas al artículo 103 del Código Civil Turco, así como el proyecto de ley propuesto en la noche del 17 de noviembre, establecerán regulaciones retrospectivas y prospectivas.