Female activists make history with new law to protect women
Hürriyet Daily News
Nazan Moroğlu, a lawyer with a very busy schedule speaks to the Daily News’ Barçın Yinanç ahead of a conference on women’s rights at Kültür University on the European side of Istanbul, where she was a speaker. The second part of the interview took place after the conference in the car, as she was rushing to Yeditepe University on the Anatolian side of the city where she gives lectures on gender law. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL
A new law passed March 8 is a historic step that will better protect women regardless of their relationship status, according to lawyer and women’s activist Nazan Moroğlu.
“Irrespective of their marital status, the law encompasses all women – married, single, divorced, young, old, those with a fiancé or a boyfriend,” said Moroğlu about the law, which also promises more stringent restraining order against abusive men and calls for expanded rights for victimized women in terms of housing.
The historic law, however, is not without its shortcomings, Moroğlu told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview, noting that the legal provisions see women merely as “family members” rather than “individuals” and that the law did not address potential violence.
Tell us a short summary of the journey of this new law.
Turkish culture considered domestic violence a private matter and is very forgiving of violent husbands. But since January 1998, there is a law in Turkey – “the Law for the Protection of the Family” – that was providing important measures for the protection of women and children against domestic violence. But in time, shortcomings surfaced about this law, No. 4320. An important shortcoming of the law was that it [only] provided protection to those that were officially married. It did not even provided protection for divorced women. In time, we started witnessing cases like Ayşe Paşalı [who was murdered by her former husband, who had threatened her several times. The state failed to protect her even though she complained several times].
The ministry at that time, the Ministry Responsible of Women Issues, started the process to amend Law No. 4320. Following the 2011 general elections, the name of the State Ministry for Women and Family Affairs was changed to the Family and Social Policies Ministry, which was a step backward for gender equality. [But] the new ministry decided to enact a totally new and very encompassing law. Minister Fatma Şahin got in touch with women’s NGOs. A rough draft appeared in September and it has now been endorsed by Parliament.
What are the major amendments in the new law that you believe are crucial?
The most important change is that it will protect all women irrespective of their marital status. The law encompasses all women – married, single, divorced, young, old, those with a fiancé or a boyfriend.
Second, previously, the decision to protect [women] was limited to having the perpetrator leave home. But the perpetrator can walk on the street and, for instance, if the man meets his wife on the street, he stabs her. With the new law, if the perpetrator violates the protection order, then he will be jailed in the first step for three days. Law No. 4320 called for a prison sentence in the event of any violation of the protection order, but it took a long time to come to the point of sending the abuser to jail. Now this will happen quicker and this will have a deterrent effect on potential abusers.
Meanwhile, violence does not take place during office hours, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The new law gives police officers the opportunity to give a protection order the moment the victim needs protection. If the violence takes place at midnight, usually the abused goes to the nearest police station. But in general police officers can’t do much and usually send her back because there are not enough women’s shelters. The new law says that in the absence of a resort to a family court or to the prosecutor, law enforcement officials should take protection measures.
There are apparently different ways to protect the abused.
There can be a restraining order preventing the man from going home. If the perpetrator has a weapon or any device of that nature, he has to hand over any weapon to the law enforcement authorities; if he is in a profession that requires him to carry a gun, he needs to hand it in to the institution he works for. The abuser is also asked not to come close to the workplace of the abused. Another important point is that if the victimized woman asks, she can be relocated.
Will there be financial resources earmarked to implement all of this?
With this new law, the Family and Social Policies Ministry has its own
budget and some part of it is earmarked especially for the victims of violence.
Now with this new law, the Family and Social Policies Ministry has its own budget and some part of it is earmarked especially for the victims of violence. Abused women will receive allowance; if she works and cannot leave her children, two months of childcare will be paid. The state will later sue the abuser and to reclaim all this money.
The law prevents the victim from suffering economically in the first instances. For instance, if the shared home is owned by the abuser, then the family court can notify the land registration office that the house is a family house, which means that the abuser, as the owner of the house, will not be able to sell the house if the abused woman is against it. If the abuser is registered with social security, then the family court will order a certain amount of the abuser’s salary to be paid to the victim. There is also the issue of the technical pursuit of the abuser.
So the gist of the law is to provide physical, psychological and economic protection to the female victims of violence. In the first article of the new law, there is also a reference to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which was first open to signature in Istanbul in May 2011 – the so-called Istanbul Convention. The moment the law comes into force, that convention will be taken into consideration.
So, in principle, the new bill is a positive law. But for us who are very sensitive to the subject, we obviously see shortcomings in the new law and have been lobbying for changes.
What are your main criticisms of the law?
This was a new law. So this new departure in the right direction should have started by giving the correct name to the law. The name should have been the “Law on Preventing Violence against Women and Individuals of the Family.” The current name is the Law on the Protection of the Family and the Prevention of Violence against Women.
Why does the name matter so much?
The word “individual” is very important. In Turkey the perception of women is to see her as a family member rather than an individual. Turkey signed the Istanbul Convention and even ratified it in November 2011. In that convention, a woman is taken as an individual, not only as a member of the family. We believe that using the correct name is important in bringing about a change in mentality. Sometimes, even judges can take decisions against women.
What are the other amendments that you have objected to?
The law provides protection for violence that has taken place, not for [violence] that might occur. We women’s organizations had all agreed on that. But during the talks at Parliament’s Justice Commission, this was omitted.
How did women’s NGOs work during the whole process to finalize the law?
For the first time, all the women’s NGOs were united. Some 237 women’s organizations worked together day and night following the process, step by step.
Who is Nazan Moroğlu?
A graduate of the Law Faculty of Istanbul University, Nazan Moroğlu specializes in gender law.
Moroğlu is the founder of the Women’s Rights Commission of the Turkish Bar Associations Union.
She has been a member of the board and president of the Turkish Jurist Women’s Association (which is a member of the international “Des Femmes Des Carrieres Juridiques – FICJ); the Turkish University Women’s Association and the Women’s Studies Association.
The activist has also been the president of the Union of Istanbul Women’s Organizations (İKKB) since 2003. In the past, she was also a member of the Turkish Parliamentary Union – Advisory Committee on Gender Equality.
Her publications include “The Surname of the Woman” (1999); “The First Decade in Women’s Studies” (1999); “Property Regimes among Spouses according to the New Turkish Civil Code” (2002). She has taught gender law at Istanbul’s Yeditepe University Law Faculty since 2001.