Abusive men granted impunity by Turkish judiciary, say rights activists

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Women’s rights activists in Turkey have said the judiciary often protects perpetrators of gender-based violence and femicide by granting them impunity, the Birgün daily reported.

In the latest case an abusive man with a criminal record in western Turkey’s Çanakkale province was released pending trial. İlker Mustafa Kuloğlu, who is alleged to have beaten his wife throughout their marriage and abducted her twice after she decided to divorce him, was freed by the court while his trial proceeds. 

The third hearing took place Monday morning at the Çanakkale 1st Criminal Court, where the prosecutor demanded a 23-year sentence for the allegedly abusive partner and the continuation of his detention. 

In another example Ali Yurt, who was accused of pushing his wife off a balcony, was not detained by authorities. In this case, the victim was only injured and hospitalized. 

Femicides and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women are killed, raped or beaten almost every day. Many critics say the main reason behind the situation is the policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which protects violent and abusive men by granting them impunity.

Women who have filed for protection against abusive partners have been failed by law enforcement and the judiciary. In some cases, they were not granted restraining orders, or their partners walked free from court. 

Article 29 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) is often used to reduce sentences for men accused of such crimes on the grounds that the victim “provoked” the murder with her actions.

Turkish courts are often accused of interpreting laws leniently in cases of gender-based violence. They also reduce sentences for men based on “good conduct” in the courtroom, which is at the discretion of the judge.

Women’s rights activists said the law should be amended because it does not clarify what exactly can be considered a provocation. Moreover, in a conservative society even the smallest adverse behavior from a woman can be considered a provocation.

According to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform, 392 women were murdered in Turkey in 2022.

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 member countries of the Council of Europe in 2011.

Since Turkey’s withdrawal from the treaty, Turkish authorities have been pressuring women’s rights organizations for their activist work.

Despite the pressure, organizations have said they will continue monitoring violence and femicide in the country.

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