Sexual abuse in detention on the rise in Turkey: rights groups

Women and transwomen in Turkey are often mistreated during police raids and in detention, especially by the country’s security forces, according a statement issued by women’s groups and LGBT organizations on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, marked on November 25 of every year.

“In Turkey, methods of physical and psychological torture are widespread, although they are prohibited by laws and international conventions. Women and transwomen are mistreated in constant violation of the United Nations Mandela Rules during house searches, street demonstrations and in detention centers,” said the statement, penned by the Legal Aid Office against Sexual Harassment and Rape and signed by some 100 women’s rights and LGBT organizations.

The UN Mandela Rules are based on an obligation to treat all prisoners with respect for their inherent dignity and value as human beings and to prohibit torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

There have been widespread claims of sexual abuse and torture in Turkey’s prisons and detention centers that have so far gone uninvestigated.

According to the joint statement, 91 women have contacted the legal aid office this year regarding the sexual abuse they were subjected to. ”Most of the perpetrators in these cases are police officers and other members of the security forces. Torture and mistreatment used by the security forces against female detainees include strip-searches during detention, forcing detainees to sit and stand naked and threats of rape, beatings and other forms of sexual abuse,” the statement said.

Sexual abuse by security forces is not recorded during detention or house raids unless the victim has the courage to talk about it or has a witness, according to the joint statement.

The statement also noted the importance of the İstanbul Convention, saying it was the most important convention on violence against women to date and that such violence had increased since Turkey withdrew from the convention.

The Council of Europe (CoE) 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.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked outrage in Turkey and the international community after he issued a decree in March 2021 that pulled the country out of the international treaty, which requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

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