A Turkish court released four men accused of sexually assaulting a woman despite forensic evidence strongly supporting the allegations, once again raising concerns that perpetrators of abuse in Turkey are granted impunity, the Birgün daily reported.
Thirty-five-year-old S.G. claimed she had been drugged and raped by her former boyfriend and three of his friends on the evening of May 14, 2023. She also claimed to have been beaten and that her ex-boyfriend broke her nose.
The Ankara Institute of Forensic Medicine in a July report found DNA evidence from the four men on S.G.’s body. Since the men’s release, S.G. said she was being threatened to withdraw her complaint.
“The prosecutor is completely deaf to my concerns,” she said. “The assailants told me that my complaints were futile and that they would eventually walk free. The prosecutor issued a 90-day restraining order, but this is not enough. I want authorities to take this matter seriously.”
Women’s rights activists in Turkey have drawn attention to a culture of impunity surrounding sexual and physical abuse cases. They argue that perpetrators often escape prosecution or are handed reduced prison sentences.
According to the activists, at least 17 perpetrators were given reduced prison sentences in the first nine months of this year. Some of these cases involved the sexual abuse of underage girls. Canan Güllü, chair of the Federation of Turkish Women’s Associations, said such reduced sentences have resulted in an increase of physical and sexual abuse cases.
Güllü said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its conservative political allies were at fault for the increase of violence against women since they promote patriarchal values and wield influence over the judiciary.
Moreover, in a move that attracted national and international outrage, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan through a presidential decree pulled the country out of an international treaty in March 2021 that requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.
The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, is an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies and was opened to the signature of Council of Europe member countries in 2011.