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November 27, 2011, Sunday

Woman beaters

Why would someone beat someone else? What a nasty topic to write about.

I selected this heading greatly disturbed in my mind and heart. My first choice for the heading was “woman killers,” but then I felt that would be too strong. It is even difficult to write about this, but the extent of violence against women in Turkey has reached a peak and we read about a husband killing his wife almost every day. Just last week a close friend of mine attended the funeral of a friend who had been killed by her husband. This violence is all around us and the victims and perpetrators are not always from the poor or uneducated sector of society. Anyone around you may become the receiver of violence. In this case, the victim was an engineer and her husband -- who looked like a "decent" guy -- has a graduate degree. The reasons for and the feeling of agony after such a loss are very difficult to put into words.

Turkey's Family and Social Policy Minister, Fatma Şahin, and her team have created a strong force against violence; somebody is finally doing something about this and taking action to end violence against women. We have to confess that our society has made mistakes in its handling of this matter and failed to follow Islamic traditions under which human rights are strictly governed and protected. I also think that most of the world has tolerated slight violence against women when it is domestic in nature. When a couple fights and a husband beats his wife, their next door neighbor could be very disturbed by it but not interfere. Legislation protecting individuals against domestic violence has been in force for 50 years now. Looking at the history of human kind, this is but one minute in a two-hour movie.

Finally, there is some good news. Backstage preparations for the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence took more than five years and Turkey ratified this agreement on Nov. 25, 2011, which was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The agreement was available for signature in İstanbul in May. It makes me proud to say that Turkey was the first country to ratify this agreement.

The convention is aimed at protecting women against all kinds and levels of violence. The important part for Turkey in particular is that the convention also requires the signatories to enact legislation necessary to bring criminal sanctions against the practices of forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced abortion and sterilization. The convention also pushes signatories to enact legislation to criminalize sexual harassment and stalking. The latter is very important as many non-domestic violence cases against women take place after a period of stalking.

The convention foresees the establishment of an international group of independent experts to monitor its implementation at the national level.

I will also keep up with this matter and let you know how the matter of implementation progresses.

NOTE: Berk Çektir is a licensed attorney at law and available to answer questions on the legal aspects of living and doing business in Turkey. Please kindly send inquiries to [email protected]. If a sender's letter is published, names may be disclosed unless otherwise is expressly stated by the sender.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is intended to give basic legal information and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice. Please do not just rely on the information in this column and remember that you should obtain legal assistance from a lawyer while conducting legal transactions in Turkey.

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