Turkish court takes young woman for a cat

Turkish court takes young woman for a cat

Belgin Akaltan - belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
Turkish court takes young woman for a cat

Hürriyet File Photo

A young girl has been sentenced to 25 years in jail because she did not know - or was not able - to tie the umbilical cord of the baby she secretly gave birth to at home. She was sentenced for causing the baby’s death. 

The full story is that the 19-year-old was made pregnant by her high school boyfriend in 2014 when she was 18 years old. She hid her pregnancy from her family, and gave birth silently and secretly while her parents were sleeping. She cut the umbilical cord of the baby herself and this caused the baby to die because of blood loss on Oct. 30, 2014.

She was found guilty of killing a close family member “with intent.” The court ruled unanimously that she should have known that she risked both her life and the baby’s life when cutting the cord. 

The Bianet news website writer Burçin Tetik questioned the reasoning of the ruling - and of course I totally agree with her: “She had to give birth at her room in her family’s home, trying not to wake her mother and father. She went through this tough delivery experience alone. She lost consciousness because of intense loss of blood herself. When she recovered consciousness she saw that the baby she gave birth to was not breathing. However, the court ruled that she should have known that she was risking both her own and the baby’s life by not knowing how to tie the umbilical cord. So the court sentenced this young woman to 25 years in prison because she did not know how to give birth.” 

I think the court took the young woman for a cat. You know, cats are able to give birth and take care of themselves and the entire kindle. They chew open the sac, lick and clean the kitten, bite the cord off and eat the placenta. We humans cannot do the same. 

By the way, in her defense the girl said she could not afford an abortion and was terrified that her father would hurt her over it… 

The court ruling, as Burçin Tetik wisely puts it, “reveals the state’s distorted perception of womanhood and motherhood.” 

“A very young girl is forced to give birth alone, risking her life, because of social pressure, violence and ignorance. The expectation of the court is that with the start of pregnancy she should reach a supreme motherhood level so that she can be her own surgeon and operate on herself. She should not only give birth, but she should cut the umbilical cord and tie it properly.” (Like a cat, I tell you.)

“Did those in court know, when they were 18 years old, how to deliver a baby, and what needs to be done during and after birth? Would a man of that age be expected to know what should be done with the umbilical cord? Or is it that an ordinary person - just because that person is a woman - is ‘instinctively’ entitled to be able to give birth and make a bleeding baby survive?”

The young woman wrapped the dead baby in her childhood blanket and put it under her desk. She kept it there for one day. She sought help from her classmate, the father of the baby, but he did not show up. She had to spend the day alone. Then she called the authorities to ask what she should do. The major trauma she had to go through is obvious. Despite this, the state, instead of providing her with urgent psychological support, is punishing her. 

“Men who have systematically tortured their wives for years and finally killed them in the presence of their children are not found as guilty as this teenager. While Turkish courts have given all kinds of facilitation and reductions to women killers, they chose to criminalize this girl, who did not know what to do with the umbilical cord,” Burçin Tetik wrote. “Pregnancy is, contrary to what the state assumes, not a phenomenon in which superior motherhood knowledge simply arrives with you and enables you to become your own doctor. The existence of such courts actually shows how ignorant the mechanisms of the state are regarding women’s bodies and health.”

I look forward for the day when this young girl is released. I hope something can be done for her; that she is granted another trial with a proper defense, or that the appeals court overturns her sentence. 

I’m sure there will be local support and campaigns for her, but for international support the Istanbul Bar Association has set up a website. The incident took place in Istanbul’s Bahçelievler district, where the Bakırköy district courts are in charge.