Turkey calls for legal protection of women rights

2018-03-08 03:22:50 GMT2018-03-08 11:22:50(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Burak Akinci

ANKARA, March 7 (Xinhua) -- International Women's Day, scheduled on March 8, is being celebrated across Turkey through events including marches and workshops, with an emphasis on violence which has become a headache of the modern Turkish society.

Some 40 million women and girls in Turkey enjoy far better legal protections than many of their counterparts in other Middle Eastern countries after painstaking reforms by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, in the late 1920s and 1930s.

However, deep-seated and restrictive conservative views of women's role in the Turkish society often lead to serious problems and domestic violence, and according to official data, 409 women were killed in 2017 alone.

Several public organizations involved with women's rights created the website www.kadincinayetleri.org (Murder of women), which is also a vocal women's right movement, where statistics on female homicide, a map of the committed crimes, information on murderers and the reasons for these murders are presented.

According to the website, murders may be committed after a woman proposed separation or divorce. In other cases, the murder was often motivated by a suspicion of cheating, jealousy, or honor killings.

Despite the considerable progress Turkey has made toward gender equality, it remains a country governed by strict traditional and religious customs.

Equal rights and protection for women are enshrined in laws, but things are different when it comes to religious conservatism.

Aysen Ece Kavas, the Ankara representative of kadincinayetleri.org, told Xinhua that women rights activists from all around Turkey will meet to discuss and propose changes on women's rights on March 11 in Istanbul.

Kavas said 28 women were murdered by their husbands, partners or relatives in the single month of January 2018, and this number rose to 47 in February, the highest figure in recent months.

"Femicide cases occur mostly where women feel safe and by their relatives," she noted, adding that domestic violence is the most challenging problem of the Turkish society.

On Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Centre for Psychiatry in Turkey made a statement about the violence against women.

"Violence is not unavoidable. It can be prevented, and this is especially important for the lives of girls," it said.

The centre believes that all society must be mobilized to deal with this problem.

The media often advertise sexism and religion is often used as an excuse for men's violence toward women, the centre pointed out.

Despite the existence of anti-violence laws, deterrence is limited because men convicted of domestic violence often receive lenient sentences if a judge deems their behavior in court positive or respectful.

"The laws are there to be enforced. Deterrence can only be ensured if the laws are strictly applied to the crime without any extenuating circumstances," Canan Gullu, the head of the Federation of Women Associations of Turkey (TKDF), told Xinhua.

Gullu said the association has sent a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about debates on violence against women.

She advised the government to deal with the issue in terms of education, and changing the judicial mindset.

"Those who commit these crimes must be excluded from the possibility of reduced sentences. The penalties given for such crimes should be in line with our feelings," Erdogan has said.

For Turkish women, they are also planning to cry out disapproval of their disproportionate participation in the male dominated work force, as only 34 percent of women in Turkey are employed, much fewer than women in other industrialized countries, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Experts argue that what Turkey most needs to do is not to make more women enter the workforce but to make sure that they do not leave it once they get married.