Turkish women call for end to gender-based violence and discrimination on International Women’s Day

In commemoration of International Women’s Day, Turkish women’s rights activists have called for an end to gender-based violence, which is worryingly common in the country, and discrimination, Turkish media reported.

Women’s rights activist Dilara Kurtuluş said the increasing number of gender-based violence cases were a direct result of government policies. In March 2021 President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan withdrew Turkey from the Istanbul Convention, which requires member states to adopt domestic legislation and strictly punish domestic abuse and gender-based violence.

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.

Kurtuluş said this was a serious blow to women’s rights in Turkey and that many women and girls became more vulnerable to domestic violence, femicide and discrimination. “While women are abused and robbed of their rights, the perpetrators of these crimes are free,” said Kurtuluş. 

Fidan Ataselim from the We Will Stop Femicide Platform agreed that the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) policies have had a negative impact on women’s rights. “Women are often killed by close family members, but the government’s policies are geared towards protecting the unity of the family [instead of addressing domestic violence],” she said. “The minister of family and social affairs said Turkish women were enjoying unlimited freedom, but a day after this statement eight women were killed.”

Women’s rights activists said freedom was to be able to divorce without getting killed, which is currently a major problem in Turkey. Many organizations issued statements to commemorate International Women’s Day and express their solidarity with women suffering from all forms of violence and discrimination.

The Solidarity with Women Foundation (KADAV) called for better working conditions for women and said they would continue the struggle to reach this goal, while the Equality for Women Platform (EŞİK) said women would not give up their demand for equality in all walks of life. 

The Association of Journalists said the gender pay gap was still a big problem. demanded equal pay for women.

Other organizations such as the Human Rights Association (IHD) drew attention to femicide. “Unfortunately, this year – like the years before – we greet March 8 with femicide and gender-based violence. As violence against women continues, as human rights advocates, we are reiterating our commitment to the women’s cause,” the IHD said.  

Femicides and violence against women are chronic problems in Turkey, where women are killed, raped or beaten almost every day. Violence prevention and monitoring center ŞÖNİM documented 1,360,027 gender-based violence cases between 2013 and 2023. Many critics say the main reason behind the situation is the policies of the AKP government, which protects violent and abusive men by affording them impunity.

After withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention, the government and its allies have been calling for further rollbacks, urging the repeal of Law No. 6284, which is a domestic provision that provides protection mechanisms for women and children who have suffered or are deemed at risk of suffering domestic violence. 

Many human rights advocates have been saying the law is not being implemented by the authorities, anyway. 

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