Women’s groups angry over deficiencies in draft law to protect women

January 11, 2012, Wednesday/ 16:59:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Women's rights groups expressed frustration on Wednesday over deficiencies in a draft law intended to address cases of violence against women in Turkey.
The criticism comes during the lead-up to a meeting on Jan. 12 with the family and social policy minister, Fatma Şahin, who drafted the bill.

“Despite our repeated meetings with the ministry and despite our suggestions to the ministry about what the new law should consist of, the ministry keeps amending the draft law. In each change, the new version becomes worse than the old one,” said a spokesperson for the İstanbul Feminist Collective at a press conference on Wednesday.

The group added that the proposed law they submitted at the beginning of the drafting process was based on the extensive experience of the 236 women's organizations that put their signatures to the document.

“The current situation shows that the ministry doesn't have a transparent relationship with women's groups, that we have been consulted purely for the sake of procedure and that our views have not been really taken into consideration,” they stated.

The ministry made critical changes to the law just before meeting with women's organizations last month but did not make these organizations aware of the changes prior to or at the meeting. The changes affected the eligibility of women for protection from violence. Even though the previous draft encompassed all women, including “those in close relationships” – pertaining to unmarried women who are involved in a relationship – this clause was removed in the latest draft. Rights groups have said that in its current form the law will only protect women who are married, engaged or divorced.

Another issue of concern is the authority that would be given to district officials. The Platform to End Violence, a partnership of women's groups that has been working for several decades to change the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) with the goal of improving the status of women in society, defends aspects of the previous draft as a well-intentioned move to enable district officials to help women in emergency situations. However, in the current draft the “urgent need” clause has been removed, fueling concern that district officials will try to impose their own rules on cases, a responsibility which would be better left to family court judges.

The other “unacceptable” change in the most recent draft is that courts will remove penalties for men who promise that they will never again use violence against women.

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