— The Erimtan Angle —

A few days ago, the independent Bianet News Centre posted on its website that the ‘number of women murders in Turkey  increased by 1,400 percent within seven years. As far as divorce cases are concerned, 85 percent of all applications in Istanbul are related to violence’, adding that, ‘[w]hile 66 women were murdered in 2002, this figure rocketed to 953 women murders in 2009’. [1]

The report continues that ‘[t]his development made the headlines in the Turkish Press on Thursday (15 September). The figures are based on data issued by lawyer Aydeniz Alisbah Tuskan, Co-ordinator of the Istanbul Bar Association Centre for Women’s Rights. The data revealed an additional startling dimension of the problem: 85 percent of about 2000 annually registered divorce applications in Istanbul are based on violence. About 300 women applied to the Istanbul Bar Association for protection during the past year. Other applications were concerned with alimony, child custody or family residence for example. According to lawyer Tuskan, the reason for this explosion in the number of applications based on violence is the fact that women do not endure violence as they used to do in the past . . . Tuskan called for an immediate response to women who seek protection. She demanded to accommodate women who applied for protection in women shelters without separating them from their children. She  also stated that the financial situation of the women had to be sorted out. The lawyer indicated that women became aware of these topics. Lawyers are being assigned to women who apply for protection to the Istanbul Bar Association, Tuskan explained. The lawyer conceded though that protection does not fully solve the problem of violence. The person who [has] experienced violence should furthermore be medically treated and supervised psychologically, Tuskan claimed. . . . According to the data of the Ministry of Justice, the number of women murders increased by factor 14 between 2002 and 2009. While 66 women were killed in 2002, this figure raised to 953 women murders in 2009. The development of the increase was documented as follows: 83 women murders in 2003; 128 in 2004; this figure more than doubled in 2005 with 317 women killings; again a sharp increase with 663 in 2006; a peak of 1011 women murders in 2007 and a small decrease in numbers in 2008 with 806 women murder’.[2]


Katie Meline of the action group Stop Violence Against Women states that the “reform of the Turkish Penal Code in 2004 was achieved as result of a concerted campaign by women’s civil society organizations. The new Penal Code represents an important step forward in ‘ensuring that domestic violence is no longer viewed as an acceptable, ‘ordinary’ phenomenon but rather as a ‘crime’ . . . This rejection of domestic violence as the status quo was affirmed in June 2009 when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey had failed to fulfill its obligation to protect Nahide Opuz and her mother from brutal domestic violence inflicted by Opuz’s husband. The judgment represented the first time the Court had spelled out a state’s obligations in regard to
domestic violence, stressing that such violence is not a private matter but instead an issue that requires state intervention . . . Women are able to seek relief from domestic violence under Law. No. 4320, which established the right of victims to file for protection orders. Enacted in 1998, the law was amended in 2007 to expand its application to couples living separately  previously, it had applied only to those who were married and living in the same household). However, the law continues to refer to the perpetrator specifically as the accused “spouse,” leaving open the question of whether a protection order can be sought in a case where a woman is not married to her abuser. The specific language of the law states that when a situation where domestic violence  has occurred is brought before a Justice of the Family Court, the court can order the accused spouse:

a. Not to use violence or
threatening behavior against the other spouse or children (or another member of
the family living under the same roof);

b. To leave the dwelling shared with the
spouse or children if there are any and not to approach the dwelling occupied
by the spouse and children or their place of work;

c. Not to damage the property of the spouse or
children (or of others living under the same roof);

d. Not to cause distress to the spouse or
children (or others living under the same roof) using means of communication;

e. To surrender a weapon or other similar
instruments to the police;

f. Not to arrive at the shared dwelling while
under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances nor use such
substances in the shared dwelling”.[3]

As indicated by Meline, in a legal sense women have booked progress in Turkey over the past years, but in reality, violence against women is a near-daily phenomenon in Turkey, with spouses, boyfriends or husbands regularly beating or killing the women in their lives, as the Bianet report indicates. Meline’s expose goes on to say that the “reform of Turkish Penal Code in 2004 was achieved as result of a concerted campaign by women’s civil society organizations. Aimed at holistic reform, the campaign succeeded in redefining sexual crimes as crimes committed against individuals rather than crimes against society, family, or public morality. WWHR noted that in the penal code “all references to vague patriarchal constructs such as chastity, morality, shame, public customs, or decency have been eliminated and definitions of such crimes against women brought in line with global human rights norms” . . . It also provided a synopsis of other noteworthy changes aimed at addressing violence against women: The new code, which states in the first article that the aim of the law is to “protect the rights and freedoms of individuals,” brings progressive definitions and higher sentences for sexual crimes; criminalizes marital rape; brings measures to prevent sentence reductions granted to perpetrators of honor killings; eliminates previously existing discrimination against non-virgin and unmarried women; criminalizes sexual harassment at the workplace and considers sexual assaults by security forces to be  aggravated offences. Provisions regulating the sexual abuse of children have been amended to explicitly define sexual abuse and remove the notion of “consent of the child.” Provisions legitimizing rape and abduction in cases which the perpetrator marries the victim have been abolished; the article granting sentence reduction to mothers killing the newborn children born out of wedlock is removed; and the article regulating “indecent behaviour” has been amended to include only sexual intercourse in public and exhibitionism”.[4]

Last month, the news broadcaster EuroNews did an extended report on the issue: a ‘recent survey revealed that 42 per cent of women in Turkey suffer physical or sexual violence at the hands of their husband or partner. The government has introduced a range of new measures to combat the problem but campaigners say the new measures are not being properly enforced and the violence continues. Is Turkey doing enough to confront the ‘traditional’ mindset over domestic violence? (8 August 2011)’.


[1] “Number of Women Murders Increased by 1400 Percent” bianet in English (16 September 2011). http://www.bianet.org/english/gender/132753-number-of-women-murders-increased-by-1400-percent.

[2] “Number of Women Murders Increased by 1400 Percent”.

[3] Katie Meline, “Turkey” Stop Violence Against Women (January 2011). http://stopvaw.org/turkey.html.

[4] Katie Meline, “Turkey”.


Comments on: "Violence against Women in Turkey: A 1,400% Increase in Seven Years" (2)

  1. Nothing to add except that this is far worse than I would have ever imagined, and thanks for posting this.

    Tex Shelters

  2. […] […]

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