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Turkish mayor advises women to 'stay home' to avoid harassment

MUŞ/VAN - Hürriyet | 5/25/2011 12:00:00 AM | EMEL ARMUTÇU

Women complaining about sexual harassment on the streets of Muş should deal with the problem by simply staying at home, the province’s mayor has said.

Women complaining about sexual harassment on the streets of the eastern province of Muş should deal with the problem by simply staying at home, the province’s mayor has said.

“Do not walk around, sit in your homes,” 71-year-old Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Mayor Necmittin Dede recently told Muş representatives of the Women’s Center, or KAMER, when they told authorities that high employment in the city had resulted in men spilling out of the overcrowded teahouses in the area to verbally harass female passersby.

KAMER representatives said they had enjoyed success in cooperating with local police on women’s issues, but added that public institutions, such as the one led by the mayor, remained indifferent to their cause.  

“We have appealed to the authorities time and time again, yet they do not allow us into the schools to conduct training sessions about women. So we visit households instead. We conducted surveys in 700 households until now that show the rate of domestic violence stands around 70 percent,” said Necmiye Boz of KAMER. 

Muş municipality does maintain a women’s shelter in the area – although the building is prominently identified by a large sign, allowing potential attackers to find women seeking refuge in the building.

A total of six honor killings have been committed in the province over the past two months although some of the deaths have been passed off as suicides, according to Boz and another KAMER representative, Ayşegül Söylemez.

In previous comments, Dede said, “If women were man enough, they would have become prophets.” 

Among state authorities, local police have led the way in trying to combat domestic violence, releasing preparing a report titled “Survey Report on Cases of Domestic Violence.” Law enforcement officers have also rented billboards to create awareness about the problems facing women. One such billboard features the portrait of a happy family, with text underneath saying, “Not everything is what it seems.”

KAMER was officially founded in 1997 and continued to grow and strengthen itself in the following years. At the moment, the group is trying to expand its activities in 23 provinces of eastern and southeastern Anatolia to more districts, villages and remote areas.

Since 1984, thousands of women have joined the group, which advocates for and extends aid to victims who face attack, arrest, torture and even death around Turkey.

The group also aims to provide analysis on the people who are convicted of beating, stabbing or raping women. 

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