Incest vs children’s rights

Incest vs children’s rights

As someone who has addressed gender equality issues for years, I could not remain silent about the ongoing debates on incest in Turkey.

Even though incest is a controversial issue these days, anyone who is interested in women’s and children’s rights would primarily define incest as “the sexual abuse of children by those who are closest to and most trusted by them in the house, first degree relatives, such as their fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts.”

Incest has always been a topic of discussion in local and international meetings about women’s rights that I’ve attended over the years. As a matter of fact, Graduate Women International (then known as the International Federation of University Women), in their 2013 Istanbul summit in which they hosted representatives from 58 countries, called for the recognition of incest as a crime with their “Campaign Against Incest and Child Brides.”

It is so wrong to represent claims that there is a 40 percent incest rate in Turkey as the result of the hate of one segment of the society against the other segment of the society with different lifestyles, in the framework of the liberal/secular versus conservative polarization.

Incest is certainly not endemic to Turkey as there are victims of incest in every corner of the world, from Africa to Europe, from the New World to the Far East; occurs across all social strata; and is still a problem of the 21st century. Since it typically occurs intrafamilially, most incidents are not discussed and remain hidden. In countries other than Turkey, however, incest is at least discussed at the level of governments and institutions, and articles about the issue get published.

We can make the following statement about Turkey: The reasons why cases of incest are more widespread in Turkey are our patriarchal family structures, the extant feudal system, and current laws, which have been designed to protect women not being properly implemented.

Who can argue against the reality that men across our country view women - including their daughters, wives and even daughters-in-law - as their property? How can we explain the rape of a 12-year-old girl in Çorum by her father, uncle and brother for five years? The girl not only had been raped by three of her family members since the age of seven but also was impregnated by her father.

On the other hand, there is a report which clearly answers the question “Which social strata are incestuous?” That report belongs to the head of the Federation of Women Associations of Turkey (TKDF), Canan Güllü, who has been researching the reality of incest since 2010. A year before the Incest Map of Turkey was published, that is 2014, a report on a meeting with experts on the issue states, “Time has shown that incest is happening across all kinds of socioeconomic and cultural strata.”

The answer is clear. Years ago, I wrote that neither a girl in some village in the back of beyond nor a girl in Istanbul could be safe in terms of incest. I still believe that.

There is one more thing. Hürriyet Daily News Editor-in-Chief Murat Yetkin wrote a brilliant article on Sept. 6 on this “shameful debate” on incest. We will be able to make progress regarding incest and other difficult subjects if the number of our male colleagues who get involved in these issues, such as Yetkin, increases.