Turkish women’s rights activists criticize reduced sentences on grounds of ‘provocation’ in gender-based violence cases: report

Turkish women’s rights activists have criticized courts handing down reduced sentences to perpetrators of gender-based violence on the grounds that they were “provoked,” saying it created a culture of impunity.

Lawyer Selin Nakıpoğlu from the Women’s Platform for Equality (ESIK) said by issuing reduced sentences based on provocation, the courts were saying victims deserved to be killed or hurt. “Even in cases where the perpetrator stalked the victim for a long period of time and the murder was premeditated, courts still find a reason to hand down reduced sentences,” Nakıpoğlu said in an interview with Deutsche Welle Turkish service (DW).

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. Lawyer Esra Baş Erbaş said in a conservative society even the smallest adverse behavior from a woman can be considered a provocation. “In patriarchal societies men can easily be provoked, therefore they can easily harm a woman and not face the consequences,” she said.

In a highly publicized case the murderer of 27-year-old Pınar Gültekin was  handed down a reduced sentenceof 23 years on the grounds that the victim had provoked him. Forensic investigations revealed that Gültekin was strangled and then set on fire by her stalker Cemal Metin Avcı, who confessed to the murder.

The court’s decision led to outrage among Gültekin’s family members and the women rights groups following the trial.

Lawyer Rezan Epözdemir, who represented the slain woman’s family, said that “Justice and law have died today” after the announcement of the court’s decision.

The lawyer for Burhan Dursun, who killed his wife Tuğba Dursun in front of their two children in October 2021, said they would appeal for a reduced sentence on the grounds that the woman had had an affair. Burhan Dursun said during his court hearing on Thursday that he could not have forgiven the betrayal

However, Tuğba Dursun’s family said he was an extremely jealous man who had inflicted physical violence on his wife and children throughout their marriage.

The smallest things such as verbal insults or wanting to separate can be considered provocation by the court. In one case a man was awarded a reduced sentence because he had high blood pressure that “caused him to lose control” during an argument with his wife.

Erbaş emphasized that such court rulings had become more commonplace after Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention.

Despite opposition from the international community and women’s rights groups, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan 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.

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.

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

According to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform, 280 women were murdered in Turkey in 2021.

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