Turkey needs an integrated policy to fight violence against women
Barçın Yinanç - ISTANBUL
Turkey has registered significant progress in fighting violence against women, especially after signing the convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, according to lawyer Nazan Moroğlu.
But there are still shortcomings, as Turkey still needs to show a firm stance and endorse an integrated approach, said the coordinator of Union of Istanbul Women’s Organizations, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
How do you see Turkey’s track record after it ratified the Istanbul Convention?
The international recognition of violence against women as a human rights violation has speeded up efforts to fight against this phenomenon.
One of the reasons behind violence against women is the unequal power relationship in the family. The legal regulations on family law were designed in a way to prioritize the rights of men, disregarding the equality between men and women.
The Istanbul Convention provides a very important roadmap for the fight on violence against women, and it led to many gains in Turkey.
Turkey signed it in 2011 and ratified it in 2012. What is important here is this: Turkey has endorsed Law 6284 with an effort to reflect the content of the convention to its domestic law in March 2012, two years before the İstanbul Convention entered into force in 2014.
In other words, Turkey has changed its domestic law even before the convention entered into force.
Exactly. It was a very good decision that was also recognized by the convention’s monitoring body, Grevio. The importance of the convention is that via a monitoring mechanism it can determine the shortcomings of member countries and ask them to take the necessary measures. Turkey has genuinely set the legal infrastructure in a very solid way.
Then, why are we still witnessing difficulties in the fight on violence against women?
This requires a mentality change. This needs to be recognized as a problem of public health.
What is your view on the debate on whether violence against women is on the rise or whether it has just become more visible?
Violence against women existed in the past as well, but women did not define it as violence. Women started to become conscious and be informed about it. Turkey has a very strong women’s movement. Women who started to be aware of their rights started to use their rights, and this has met with resistance from the male-dominant mentality.
In addition to mentality change, don’t you think we also need better implementation of the law?
I have to say that there are lots of well implemented rulings, so much that they have also served as deterrent. We have witnessed a lot of such cases. But we do also see a male-dominant mentality show itself even in the courtroom or police centers.
Indeed, many murderers have received a reduction in their sentence due to “good behavior” that they have shown in the courtroom, dubbed as “tie reduction” by women activists, as suspects come to the courtroom wearing a tie.
Yes, but we also must see the right practices as well. Trainings are being given to the officers in police stations. When women go to these stations, they get the right guidance.
As the press, we usually see the negative examples. Last weekend, a young woman was murdered by her ex-boyfriend even though they had previously been to the hospital and police station, but no measure was taken because she did not file a complaint.
The negative ones are showcased, but if the good examples were also to be shown, women can realize that violence can be prevented, and they can get more encouraged, which could motivate them to seek help and make an application for a legal preventive measure.
Do you mean to say that media coverage of negative cases has a negative impact on women, scaring them off from acting, whereas if successful cases were to be highlighted, that could encourage them to take action?
We, as the bar, talk about the good cases. We try to show that the law can be implemented. If the relevant institutions show the necessary resoluteness, then women feel safer and feel that they will be protected. Only when a woman feels she can get a result, does she decide to use her rights.
So, I cannot say that all those who have applied have again been subjected to violence or that all rulings ended with a reduction on “good behavior.”
But this requires a firm stance from all institutions. This is a multifaceted problem requiring the involvement of several institutions, including the Ministry of Education, for instance. Domestic violence is widespread. For years, we have been calling upon the ministry to include this issue in the curriculum.
To what degree have you received a positive reply to these calls?
From time-to-time we do. Two years ago, the Higher Education Board (YÖK) instructed all universities to open courses on gender equality, and this instruction was implemented. But a few months ago, these courses were canceled.
So, we expect a firm stance from the state. In addition to the Ministry of Education, we also expect the ministries of interior and justice to be vigilant. Law enforcement officers, as well as the judiciary, need to be well informed and guided about this problem. In-service training should be given, for instance, to the judges who are assigned to the courts that oversee violence cases.
Why is there a reaction from the conservative segments against the convention?
They claim the convention is harming the unity of the family. This understanding is the result of a mentality that does not consider a woman as an individual with her own rights. Male-dominant mentality believes that women cannot take a decision about their lives, and if they are victim of violence, they should just shut up and sit at home.
Is there any part in the convention that might indeed be perceived as harming the family unity?
The convention wants to prevent domestic violence. If you have violence at home, then, there is no peace in that family, and that tension is automatically reflected to the society.
To recap what is needed to do for a better strategy to prevent violence against women?
There have been many gains thanks to the convention. Violence prevention and monitoring centers were set up, measures to protect women like electronic handcuffs were introduced, and in-service trainings were given in several institutions.
But we still need more action for a mentality change. We need to monitor and follow up how a legal protection measure has been implemented. But one of our biggest problems is lack of data. We do not know how many women are subjected to violence, we do not know how many women apply to law enforcement officers or how they are being guided by them. If we do not have these data, we cannot monitor if the convention is well implemented or not. We need coordination and an integrated approach. But when we cannot provide the necessary answer to the monitoring body, then some people start talking about pulling out of the İstanbul Convention.