Cabinet ministers, as well as figures from media and the United Nations, have teamed up to support a campaign to stop domestic violence in honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
“I slept very comfortably last night. It is because the Parliament of this country has shown that they can together find solutions to our common problems by signing a European Convention to stop domestic violence,” Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Şahin said in a speech at a Nov. 25 conference at Istanbul’s Bahçeşehir University that was organized by the newspaper and the U.N. organization to put an end to domestic violence.
The conference was held one day after Turkey became the first signatory country to approve the Council of Europe (COE) convention on preventing and combating violence against women.
The Turkish Parliament adopted the convention with 246 votes; one lawmaker abstained from the vote.
The convention defines and criminalizes various forms of violence against women, including forced marriage, female genital mutilation, stalking, as well as physical, psychological and sexual violence.
It also foresees the establishment of an international group of independent experts to monitor the convention’s implementation at national levels.
“From now on we will see the reflections of this convention implemented in Turkey’s laws,” Şahin told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Two young women interrupted the conference during Şahin’s speech with remarks that hundreds of women are subjected to violence everyday in Turkey. “It is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who said men and women are not equal,” the protesters said.
Şahin said she would like to speak to the protesters after her speech, encouraging the security guards to desist from removing the demonstrators.
Another speaker at the conference was Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış.
“We are very glad that Turkey has signed the Council of Europe’s convention. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the first person to sign a declaration against violence targeting women, this is a very positive step,” Bağış said in his speech.
Vuslat Doğan Sabancı, chairwoman of Hürriyet Gazetecilik, the parent company of the Daily News, said domestic violence was no longer a taboo in Turkey but added that there were many more steps to take.
“The number of women who have lost their lives due to the domestic violence in recent years is more than the people who died in the Van earthquake. This is our own fault. But we are here to stop this,” Vuslat Doğan Sabancı said.
UNFPA Turkey representative Dr. Zahidul Huque and writer Elif Şafak also spoke at the conference.
“We need to understand men in order to stop violence; a person who oppresses the other cannot be happy,” Şafak said.
Following the speeches, the speakers and participants, including the head editors of daily newspapers, columnists, artists and sportsmen, collectively signed an anti-domestic violence campaign led by the Hürriyet Company.