Turkish women’s rights activists urge authorities to take action against stalking

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Women’s rights activists in Turkey have urged authorities to amend the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) to make stalking a punishable crime, the Duvar news website reported.

Stalking is currently not a crime according to the TCK; however, activists have argued that it can have a detrimental effect on women and their safety. Adding that women often feel unsafe, intimidated and threatened by stalkers, activists said authorities should immediately provide women with protection in such cases.

Canan Güllü from the Turkish Federation of Women’s Organizations (TKDF) said although stalking affected women from all walks of life, perpetrators were often not punished.

Güllü explained that stalkers could be former partners who have developed an obsession, or complete strangers who follow every move of the women they are stalking. Moreover, there have been many cases where women have been killed or badly injured by their stalkers.

“Personal data protection laws in Turkey are not effective enough; therefore, stalkers can easily obtain the telephone number and home address of the women with whom they’re obsessed,” she said.

According to Güllü the police have a responsibility to monitor how many people appeal for their help with stalkers and to prepare official reports on the various methods stalkers use to access their victims. “The police need to send these reports to the Ministry of Justice. It is important that the ministry take these reports into account when they are proposing amendments to the penal code,” said Güllü.

Pointing out that cyber-stalking had also become a compelling problem in recent years, Güllü said this should also be a punishable crime.

Activists said the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s (CoE) binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, was instrumental in protecting women against stalkers.

However, Turkey withdrew from the convention on March 10, 2021, with a presidential decree. “The convention was important for protecting women, but now we don’t really have well-devised policies to do this. What happens when a woman is confronted with a potentially dangerous man on her doorstep? The police don’t detain him, and most of the time don’t even provide her with protection,” said Güllü.

Lawyer Rukiye Leyla Süren said in many cases the police do not take stalking complaints seriously. She emphasized the importance of providing the police with the necessary training to educate them about the potential risks posed by stalkers to women’s safety.

Kardelen Yarlı, an activist and lawyer, said stalking could appear very innocent. “Sometimes the woman receives flowers or presents. Then the man approaches her, asking if she would like a ride somewhere. Sometimes the woman starts receiving telephone calls or messages on social media,” she said.

However, Yarlı said these innocent-seeming acts can quickly spiral out of control and result in violence or even murder.

According to a recent study by the Ankara-based Hacettepe University Population Studies Institute, approximately one-third of all Turkish women are victims of stalking. Receiving constant telephone calls is the most common form of stalking, followed by sending text messages and emails, and stalking through social media and in person.

In the past few weeks several prominent Turkish women have come forward and said they have been victims of stalking. In one case, a man entered the home of a famous Turkish singer with an axe. In another case, a woman was accosted in front of her home.

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