Turkish women’s rights activists say sexual and physical abuse perpetrators are granted impunity 

Photo: Canva

Women’s rights activists in Turkey have said perpetrators of gender-based violence, femicide and sexual abuse are granted impunity thanks to reduced prison sentences, the Birgün daily reported

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. 

“We believe this is a political problem,” said Güllü. “The current government is continuously promoting patriarchal values. Furthermore, the judiciary is under government control, and their decisions are influenced by government propaganda. We have also seen that judges and prosecutors do not have the necessary training to fully understand gender-based violence and abuse. They take the issue very lightly.”

Conservative political allies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have called for the abolition ofLaw No. 6284, a domestic provision that provides protection mechanisms for women and children who have suffered or are deemed at risk of suffering domestic violence.

Güllü said such political debates and discussions have also led to a more lenient approach to physical and sexual abuse. “Many believe that men are too quickly accused of violence and murder,” she added. 

Femicides and violence against women are chronic 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.

Turkish courts have repeatedly drawn criticism due to their tendency to hand down lenient sentences to offenders, claiming that the crime was “motivated by passion” or by interpreting victims’ silence as consent.

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 Council of Europe member countries 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, the organizations have said they will continue monitoring violence and femicide in the country.

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