Women’s rights activists slam government proposal to combat gender-based violence as ‘inadequate’

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Women’s rights activists have criticized a government proposal to combat gender-based violence, saying it was inadequate to protect women and lenient on perpetrators of violence, the Duvar news website reported.

The proposal was put forward by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and sent to parliament for debate. According to the proposal, if the perpetrator of violence show remorse, they can benefit from a reduced sentence.

Canan Güllü from the Turkish Federation of Women’s Organizations (TKDF) said violence against women had serious consequences, sometimes resulting in death, and that seeking reductions in sentences was unthinkable.

“Can we talk about remorse in femicide cases?” she asked. “We want authorities to acknowledge that gender-based violence is a serious crime with serious consequences.”

The proposal also said if the perpetrator of violence or femicide was married to — or divorced from — the victim, their sentence would be increased. However, Güllü said the clause was insufficient as it left out boyfriends and those couples who were married under religious law.

Although religious marriages are common in Turkey, they are not recognized by the state.

“I don’t think experts in the area of gender-based violence were consulted in the drafting of this proposal,” said Güllü.

Fidan Ataselim from the We Will Stop Femicide Platform (Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu), said the government’s proposal did not introduce any solid reforms to tackle gender-based violence.

“Most recently, a woman was stabbed to death for not accepting the marriage proposal of a former boyfriend. The Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a reduced sentence for the perpetrator, saying he would not have murdered her if she had accepted his proposal,” said Ataselim. “Judges are already implementing sentence reductions, and this is unacceptable.”

Ataselim added that the biggest problem in the proposal was that it did not mention gender equality. Without acknowledging the equality of genders activists argue that gender-based violence can not truly be combatted.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and prominent conservative figures in the government and media have repeatedly said they see gender equality as contradictory to the nature of men and women.

Erdoğan criticized feminists for “not understanding motherhood,” in a 2014 speech, claiming that Islam accords women high value due to their ability to bear and raise children.

Activists agree that the only way to truly combat femicide and violence was to reinstate the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention.

The international accord was 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.

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.

Amid calls from women’s rights organizations and world leaders, such as US President Joe Biden, for reinstatement of the Istanbul Convention, the Council of State has so far rejected numerous appeals requesting the cancellation of Erdoğan’s executive decree withdrawing Turkey from the accord.

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