Türkiye: Stemming Tide Of Violence Against Women And Girls Should Be Priority, Says UN Expert
GENEVA / ANKARA (27 July 2022) – Despite significant progress that Türkiye has made over the last 15 years in advancing women’s rights, the country is now at a crossroads, and risks backtracking on its human rights obligations to protect women and girls from violence, a UN expert has concluded after her country visit.
In a statement at the end of her visit, Reem Alsalem, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls acknowledged the particularly challenging context within which the government of Türkiye and other stakeholders tackle the issue of violence against women and girls. The issue was compounded by the country’s economic situation and the implications of generously hosting close to 4 million refugees – mostly Syrians under temporary protection, the expert said.
However, she said Türkiye had made considerable progress in working towards sustainable development, taking fundamental steps towards eradicating poverty and increasing support for marginalised and disadvantaged sections of society, including women and girls.
Alsalem acknowledged the solid legal framework for the prevention of violence against women and girls through the Law to Protect Family and Prevent Violence against Women (Law 6284), together with Türkiye’s four national action plans and specialised initiatives, including the emergency support mobile phone app: KADES.
“Türkiye has made important legal and policy reforms to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls, but these fall short of its full capacity, potential and responsibilities to protect women and girls living on Turkish soil and do not correspond to the gravity of the situation,” Alsalem said.
The UN expert said much of the progress that Türkiye had made towards advancing gender equality and ending violence against women and girls, would not have been possible without the international human rights framework, most notably the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention)
“Almost all stakeholders I have met in Türkiye unequivocally recognise the bearing the Istanbul Convention has had on combating violence against women and girls, and how intrinsically linked it is to Türkiye’s identity, aspirations, and its destined role and standing regionally and beyond,” the Special Rapporteur said.
“I am therefore calling on the Government of Türkiye to reconsider its decision to pull out of the Istanbul Convention and continue to uphold its other international human rights obligations,” she said.
The Special Rapporteur said implementation of domestic legislation had been weakened by Türkiye’s withdrawal from the Convention, including preventive measures and services currently in place for survivors of gender-based violence. The withdrawal had also emboldened perpetrators, and left victims at increased risk of violence, she warned.
According to the last government survey conducted in 2014, around 1 in 4 women have suffered physical or sexual abuse by their partners. Combined data provided by the government, independent media and civil society groups point to hundreds of femicides every year. Yet a lack of confidence in available protection and assistance mechanisms; widespread impunity for violence and gender-related bias and discrimination had resulted in serious underreporting.
The UN expert said the effectiveness of Türkiye’s initiatives to combat violence against women and girls and assist and protect victims was hampered by the lack of reliable disaggregated data, inadequate shelters and access to them, lack of effective protection orders, language barriers, and lack of accountability.
While the consequences of these gaps and challenges affect women and girls in Türkiye in general, specific groups of women and girls are at particular risk, including those that are: refugees; migrants, beneficiaries of temporary protection status, human rights defenders, women active in politics- including those of Turkish-Kurdish descent- LBTI; women in detention; and women with disabilities – amongst others.
“No society can truly prosper unless its woman and girls enjoy equality and freedom from violence. All stakeholders I met agreed that violence against women and girls has no place in Turkish society. Türkiye must therefore translate this belief into practice, by tackling impunity and prioritising the issue of violence against women and girls at the highest levels,” Alsalem said.
She urged Turkish authorities to dedicate further resources to tacking violence against women and girls, address harmful social and cultural norms, and strengthen its national machinery “ she said. The government should expand the outreach to, and participation of civil society organisations, particularly womem’s human rights organisations that place the interests of women at the center of the efforts, she said.
“In many ways, Türkiye is at an important junction in its history. It can either consciously and deliberately choose to protect the gains made in advancing the rights of women and girls, or risk backtracking on this important progress and leaving its women and girls behind,” Alsalem said.
During her 10-day visit, the Special Rapporteur met with relevant Ministers, government affiliated institutions, provincial authorities as well as representatives from international organisations, civil society organisations, trade unions, bar associations and Turkish and women and girl victims of violence who are foreign nationals.
She will present a full report on her visit to the Human Rights Council in June 2023.
Ms. Reem Alsalem (Jordan) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2021, to recommend measures, ways and means, at the national, regional and international levels, to eliminate violence against women and its causes, and to remedy its consequences. She is an independent consultant on gender issues, the rights of refugees and migrants, transitional justice and humanitarian response. She holds a Masters in International Relations from the American University in Cairo, Egypt (2001) and a Masters in Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (2003).