Turkey needs more and better shelters for women: Charity
Zeynep Bilgehan - ISTANBUL
The state of women’s shelters in Turkey once again has come under the spotlight after the death of a four-year-old girl in one of the safe houses.
Back in 2016, the girl, who was living with her mother in a shelter in the Hopa district of the Black Sea province of Artvin, was found unconscious in the facility by another resident. She was transferred to a hospital where she was brought back to life after cardiac massage. However, she had been on respirator since then. The four-year-old girl died on Sept. 3.
An investigation had been launched in the wake of the incident and a woman, who stayed at the shelter at that time, has been tried over the death of the girl.
The death of the little girl has once again raised questions as to whether women’s shelters in Turkey are safe enough to serve women who need protection and care.
There are a total of 132 such shelters across the country. Only the eastern province of Bitlis does not have a shelter for women.
Most of those facilities are run by the Family, Labor and Social Services Ministry while others are operated by municipalities, the Immigration Authority (Göç İdaresi) and the Purple Roof (Mor Çatı), an NGO.
According to data from 2016, 102 shelters under the Family Ministry accommodated 29,612 women and 17,956 children. Thirty-three facilities operated by municipalities sheltered 2,088 women and 1,433 children. And 66 women and 23 children were hosted at the shelter run by the NGO.
More shelters needed
Are there enough shelters in Turkey? “No,” says Aslı Elif Sakallı, from the Purple Roof Women’s Shelter Foundation.
“Even Sweden, a country with a population of 10 million, has 161 shelters. More money is needed to increase the number of shelters in Turkey,” she explained.
“However, opening new shelters would not be enough. It is also important to closely watch how those shelters are operated and whether the employees at those facilities are protected. When there is not enough money, the existing shelters fail to provide quality services,” Sakallı added.
According to Sakallı, only one or two social workers are employed at shelters that host 25 to 30 women.
“The point here is that the women, who live in shelters, should feel comfortable in those facilities. Some shelters are really good. There are laws that protect women and if those laws are used effectively, women’s lives could be saved. The efforts that aim at empowering women help them build a new life after a violent past. What empowers women is not feeling sorry for them but helping them make decisions about their lives,” she said.
Sakallı also noted that some employees at the shelters who are not conscious about gender equality could make statements such as: “But clearly you deserved this.”
“There is no excuse for violence [against women],” she added.
According to data provided by the Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu (We Will Stop Femicides Platform), a women’s rights organization monitoring the number of women killed at the hands of abusive men, 41 women were killed in August in Turkey.