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RIGHTS > Witness law shields women

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Female victims of domestic violence and their children will receive new identities under the Witness Protection Law, but rights activists say the new measure will be useless unless police actually implement the law

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A group of women protest against domestic violence on March 8 Womens’ Day in Antalya. The main problem with legislation on domestic violence is that police do not follow judicial orders to implement the law, a rights activist says. DHA photo

A group of women protest against domestic violence on March 8 Womens’ Day in Antalya. The main problem with legislation on domestic violence is that police do not follow judicial orders to implement the law, a rights activist says. DHA photo

As Turkey continues to be shocked by the number of women murdered in the country, an Istanbul court has ruled to allow women to adopt new identities in order to protect themselves from violent spouses. Women’s rights defenders, however, claim the effort is in vain as rules regarding domestic violence are improperly practiced.

An Istanbul woman who had been beaten by her husband repeatedly sought the safety of a women’s shelter, according to a report in daily Hürriyet. She also filed a criminal complaint against her husband and, as a result, the court ruled to relocate the woman to another city and change her identity under the “witness protection law.” The plaintiff’s identity will be altered along with those of her three children in order to protect them from the woman’s husband.

Before the court’s ruling the plaintiff had repeatedly appealed to the police, filing criminal complaints about her husband’s violent behavior. A court case was eventually opened against her husband on battery charges and for threatening his wife’s personal freedom. However, the husband was released and continues to abuse his wife in front of their children. Eventually the woman escaped from the house to a woman’s shelter with her children in tow where she appealed to lawyer Fatma Gül Karapıçak, who often aids women in shelters. Karapıçak demanded protection for the woman and her children along with the concealment of their contact and identity information under Law no. 6284 for the protection of the family. Kadıköy’s Fourth Family Court ruled for the removal of the husband from the home and approved the proposal to change the identities of the victims according to the “witness protection law”.

The critical point is the practice of the law, which fails in Turkey, said Hilal Akdeniz of the Ankara Bar Association. These decisions will work only if they are implemented in a proper way, Akdeniz said. “The address should be hidden very well. For example, if the child and father are to have personal contact with each other, they can meet in another city through the agency of a police officer,” Akdeniz told the Hürriyet Daily News July 20. “Long-term education in fighting [domestic] violence should be provided,” Akdeniz said.

Changing victims’ identities may not be very effective, because the aggressors in domestic violence cases often display obsessive behaviors, said Pınar İlkkaracan, co-founder of Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR), who is also a psychotherapist.

“The husband may reach [the victims] even though their identities have been changed, because the violator may be obsessive and stalk the woman in such cases. The judge can issue an order of protection for the woman or one that keeps the husband away. The main problem stems from the fact that the police do not follow those orders,” İlkkaracan said.

Violence increases

An 18-year-old Istanbul woman was brutally murdered by her husband on July 18 in Istanbul’s Balat district. Mother of two Mahmure Karakule, who was married to Zülfikar Bakır, 31, in a religious marriage, died immediately at the crime scene. The relatives of the victim claim that they have issued a number of criminal complaints against Bakır, but that police have ignored them.

Also in Istanbul on July 19, Zahide Feyzioğlu, 33, was killed by her husband despite having taken shelter in an NGO’s house.

Men murdered seven women and a female child, injured nine women, raped eight and sexually harassed 12 more in June, according to news stories compiled from agencies.

July/21/2012

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