Increased Violence Against Women and Common Ground for Struggle

While the debates on alimony, amnesty and loss of women's gains has been still going on on the 25th of November, International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women, the Violence Against Women Committee convened for the 13th time on November 15, 2019. We took President of Federation of Women Associations of Turkey (TKDF) Canan Gullu’s opinions on the meeting, whether there are differences of opinions among NGOs and other women's organizations and her evaluations about the 25th of November, International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women.

Increasing the diversity of participants each year, the committee welcomed 4 trade union representatives, 75 public institutions, 21 NGOs, 9 international organization representatives and 15 academicians this year for the first time.

According to the information from the officials of the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services, the new action group formed by the Ministries of Justice and the Internal Affairs has agreed on a road map of 75 articles. The mentioned roadmap will be announced in a special program to be held on the 25th of November, 2019. Next, a protocol will be signed with the participation of Ministries of Family, Labor and Social Services, Internal Affairs, Justice, National Education and Health as well as the Presidency of Religious Affairs and opinions will be received from civil society regarding the roadmap.

As the President of TKDF, you were among the participants of the Violence Against Women Monitoring Committee meeting. Can you share your evaluations for the meeting?

Frankly, I don’t see any harm on using the expression “once again beating the air” for the 13th meeting of the Violence Against Women Monitoring Committee meeting. I consider it as a good thing for 3 Ministers attending a meeting which I personally attended for the 12th time, however; the meeting being a half-day program, the time wasted on minister’s action plans and getting off the point because of the excess number of participants was a little sad. Besides, we couldn’t help but notice the 3 ministers remaining silent as if they were in cahoots while the amnesty, alimony and annotation clauses of our country’s agenda as well as the annotations of Istanbul Agreement were being discussed. 

Especially the fact that the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services not even touching on the concerning subjects made us think that there was a political reservation. In my opinion, the purpose of gathering this Committee was only perfunctory. Besides, the figures given by the Ministry of Internal Affairs on femicides did not seem familiar; our numbers are rather different. Minister of Internal Affairs Süleyman Soylu accused the NGOs of not promoting KADES, the practice of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The things discussed during my presence was only limited to institutions promoting their work in their allocated time.

Do you know about the new Action Plan content that has been planned to be implemented with the joint work of the Ministries?

We don’t know about it, because we’re not invited to meetings. TKDF, as the most active institution in the field, has Coordination Committees composed of many institutions. As TKDF, we have collaborations with many units such as law enforcements, local administrations, bar associations, NGOs and Presidency of Religious Affairs. We work day and night in order to solve the problems coming to us by our Whatsapp groups. In other words, we have things to say about the solution of violence against women. We also operate an Emergency Helpline. We are the one-to-one witness to the troubles our country is in. We’re in direct contact with the victims who call us. We keep their privacy and, we provide the solution. The government is a figurant because it cannot act functional enough. Frankly, them benefiting of us would be for the sake of their actions as well as the country.

Has there been a”new” suggestion or information revealed on the meeting for you?

To tell the truth, no. We only watched the commercials of Ministries’ actions which have no comebacks on the field.

Can you share your position, suggestions and opinions with us as an institution in the Monitoring Committee on Violence Against Women?

In this regard, we expected an answer to the following issues, stated our opinions and submitted our claims as follows:

– Reminding that the Ministry of National Education should be included because of we having educational problems, and that the Minister of Health was in the Committee meetings in the past years,

– The concept of gender equality being misunderstood and the necessity of expressing it in the right ways,

– Inadmissibility of the involvement of NGOs in femicide cases being contrary to the Istanbul Agreement,

– Lack of attorneys of the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services and difficulties in the follow-up of femicide cases,

– Injunctions taken by judges in case of violence against women being reduced to 10 days,

– Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services to remain silent in an environment where legal changes concerning women are discussed being uncomfortable,

– Problems caused by impunity, which causes the perpetrator to remain unpunished for “persistent pursuance”,

– The need to increase the supervisions on electronic bracelets,

– The necessity to benefit from the experiences of NGOs and bar associations,

– Arranging problems by regulation by conducting research rather than making legal changes on the issues of alimony; the need to find a solution for uncollectable alimonies. 

– Although underage marriage is a crime, the Parliament discussing about it and the harms of underage marriage, and our opposition to amnesty,

– Problems caused by the lack of knowledge of gender equality of the desk judges involved in the hearings and cases being affected by these problems,
– Our problems with some units and officials of Ministry of  Family, Labor and Social Services about the calls coming to our emergency help line,
– The flaws in the systems of sending the files of the persons who are divorced due to violence or who are married to originally violent persons to reconciliation as well as the family mediation system,
– Necessity of founding a Ministry of Women.

What kind of activities does TKDF carry out to prevent violence against women and to prevent femicides?

Our Federation has an emergency help line. Since we are in the process of making the law, we are aware about the mechanisms that do not work in the field. For this reason, we are working with the bar associations and establishing Coordination Committees in provinces, for example, the International Istanbul Agreement, which we see as a new and powerful instrument. We contribute to the elimination of problems encountered in terms of implementation of the Agreement. With the practice called “Create Change”, we try to achieve local social transformation on gender equality. In order to make women more involved in politics, we are working on local Women’s Policies with the municipalities. We support the work within the framework of gender education in local governments by cooperating with bar associations. We are trying to make cities trouble-free by signing protocols with local governments. With the Business Against Violence Project, we teach gender education and legal rights to blue and white collars.

Do you think, there’s consensus among women’s organizations in Turkey on the prevention of increasing violence against women? Can we say that there are divergences between you and them?

I’m the one who believes that there’s a stronger union than ever. In a case where 377 women were killed in a year, the opposite is unthinkable. Now it’s time for the “strong together” slogan.

What does November 25 mean to you?

It actually reminds me of pain. It reminds me once again that the system and mentality haven’t changed. Since we carry out uninterrupted works throughout the year, we cannot reduce the struggle against violence against women to a single day. If we are talking about the increasing femicides and child abuse or we witnessing the government’s lack of women’s policies to prevent them, we need to say that we expect policies that turn into actuality on the day of November 25th rather than just talking or giving numbers.

Is there anything else you want to add further?

There’s a lot more to say, our agenda is pretty heavy… In the shade of the statements made in the Parliament on amnesty for underage marriage, we expect all politicians not to approve these rape cases. If the granted rights in alimony would be renounced, we say that women will be subordinated. We demand extensive research on alimony and demand the mechanisms of the Istanbul Agreement signed straight out by the government to be realized. We do not give up the struggle. Because we know struggle leads to victory!

What does official data tell us?

Some of the official data released on violence against women in Turkey during the Violence Against Women Monitoring Committee meeting are as follows:

– 118 thousand police officers, nearly 12 thousand police soldiers, more than 100 thousand health personnel and approximately 87 thousand religious officials, including a total of 300 thousand public officials were trained to prevent violence against women.
Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services has participated in more than 100 thousand violence to women cases.
– The number of people who downloaded the Women’s Support Application is approximately 350 thousand; the number of calls is 16 thousand and 51, the reality rate of the calls is about 50 percent. As of the release of the app, March 24, 2018, 8 thousand women were rescued by police intervention.
– The most common place where femicides occur is the woman’s house with a rate of 72.8 percent and unidentified murder is not in question. 82.4 percent of the criminals got caught, 16.2 percent of them committed suicide following the incident. 86.5 percent of the perpetrators have no criminal record before the murder.

– 69 percent of female murderers are primary and secondary school graduates: the higher the education level, the lower the rate of involvement in the murder of women.
-Between Augusts 2016-2019, the number of women murdered in Turkey is 167 thousand, only 76 of them were included in protection orders.
– 63.5 percent of the perpetrators are spouses or partners, 32 percent of them are relatives.
– In the year 2019, 509 thousand 172 different injunctions were taken for 174 thousand 958 people.
-In terms of the number of femicides per capita in 2019, countries such as Britain, France and Japan are in the 1.8-2 rang, while Turkey is in the 3.6 range according to this ranking. Denmark has the highest rate of violence against women with 52 percent.