Digital violence threatens women in Turkey more, says expert
Women in Turkey have been experiencing violence on yet another front, social media, and those aged between 18 and 24 are more exposed to this form of abuse, an information technology law expert has said.
“The rate of women exposed to digital violence is 27 times higher than man according to the latest studies,” Şebnem Ahi, chair of the Istanbul Bar Association IT Law Commission, said, noting that the increase in reports of image-based abuse or so-called “revenge porn” skyrocketed during COVID-19.
Although there is no agreement on the definition of image-based abuse in Turkish law or social media lingo, it occurs when someone shares, or threatens to share, an intimate image or video without the consent of the person depicted.
“We can talk about the existence of digital violence if women are subjected to the slightest pressure or by third parties on the internet,” said Ahi.
Information previously obtained is used against women with malicious intent in these acts of revenge motivations, she noted, citing the sharing of personal data that violates private life.
“In cases such as revenge porn, there are sometimes examples that even drag victims to suicide. Sometimes even the threat that only this information will be exposed shows that digital violence exists,” Ahi said.
As in the rest of the world, several women are becoming subject to digital violence in Turkey. Women are subject to acts such as blackmailing and even sexual assault with threats that their private photos will be shared with third parties, such as families or close friends.
In February, Şeyma Yıldız was killed by her own father in the capital Ankara on grounds that she had “inappropriate images” on the internet.
Ahi said women who have been subjected to this type of violence should definitely apply to legal authorities.
“Since the evidence can disappear quickly in the digital environment, legal action must be taken without delay. It must be ensured that the statements are accurately and completely recorded in minutes,” she noted.
“At this stage of the application, all evidence that proves the existence of digital violence should be provided and, if necessary, a suspension order should be taken. The existence of doubt is sufficient for this,” Ahi added, adding that guidance support can be obtained from women’s rights groups and NGOs.
Violence against women is not uncommon in Turkey. Though there are no official figures, women’s rights activists say that there has been a considerable increase in cases of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.