The parliamentary Human Rights Commission, in a report released on Tuesday, revealed that domestic violence and violence against women have doubled in the last four years in Turkey.
The report prepared by a sub-commission of the parliamentary Human Rights Commission revealed that, according to gendarmerie and police statistics, Turkey witnessed 48,264 gender-based incidents of violence in 2008, 62,587 incidents in 2009, a total of 72,257 incidents in 2010 and 80,398 incidents in 2011.
Between 2008 and 2011, therefore, Turkey saw a total of 263,506 cases of domestic abuse and violence against women. The sub-commission's report compiles a number of cases of violence against women and domestic abuse, including intentional homicide, intentional injury, sexual abuse, incest, sexual abuse of minors, sexual intercourse with a minor, torture, forced and encouraged prostitution, deprivation of one's liberty, polygamy and fraudulent marriage.
According to the report, İstanbul was the most dangerous province for women in terms of domestic and gender-based violence last year with a total of 10,207 cases of gender-based violence. The report also finds violence appears to be decreasing in some of Turkey's Anatolian provinces, which are typically considered the hotbed of gender-based violence, forced marriages and honor killings.
In 2008, Batman and Diyarbakır saw 163 and 581 incidents of domestic abuse and gender-based violence, respectively. In 2011, those figures dropped to 51 and 279. The sub-commission members propose the preparation of a national Strategic Action Plan to put an end to domestic violence and violence against women in Turkey. The report also underlines the need for a strategic restructuring of the judiciary and police infrastructures and a “reference point” for reporting incidents of gender-based violence.
Violence against women is not a new issue in Turkey, where more than 40 percent of women have suffered from gender-based violence at some point in their lives. But the parliamentary Human Rights Commission report has been released in the midst of the heated debate as to whether gender-based violence is actually increasing in Turkey.
Earlier this week Family and Social Policy Minister Fatma Şahin announced she would be begin sorting through gender-based violence cases reported to the police. Şahin, claiming there was no such record of gender-based violence before 2009, called many of the statistics floating around baseless. The debate becomes even murkier when considering, legal and human rights experts have pointed out, that most cases of gender-based violence go unreported.
Law professor and Police Academy instructor Dr. Vahit Bıçak told Today’s Zaman in an exclusive interview that several factors could explain what appears to be a significant increase in gender-based violence.
“The increase might reflect an awareness of domestic violence on all sides,” explained Bıçak, pointing to more comprehensive reporting by police and media in recent years. “In past years, the police were not equipped to handle such cases. Now they are more aware of the issue and how to deal with it effectively,” he said. If the increase is actual and not merely statistical, Bıçak argued economic and social problems could play a role.
Nilüfer Narlı, the head of Bahçeşehir University’s department of sociology, agreed Turkey now has more comprehensive reporting and statistics on gender-based violence. But Narlı added the nearly twofold increase in the murders of women between 2002 and 2009 makes her think Turkey is also witnessing an increase in gender-based violence.
Whether or not violence against women is increasing or simply persisting unabated, Narlı told Today’s Zaman she believes “many men feel their boundaries of masculinity have been challenged.”
“Today there is more talk of gender equality and women’s rights. More women are getting vocal and are not afraid to fight back against domestic violence. This fosters a sort of insecurity, and we see many men react out of even more aggression,” she explained.
Both Bıçak and Narlı agreed more research must be done to better understand whether gender-based violence is indeed worsening. “We must discern whether there has been a real or statistical increase. What we need is a meticulous academic study of what is going on here,” Bıçak stressed.
Violence continues unabated
The body of a young woman who was engaged to be married was found in the reservoir of a dam on Tuesday in Adana.
Employees of a nearby kebab restaurant found the body of 18-year-old Elisa Gizem Şirin, who also worked at the restaurant, in the Seyhan Reservoir, the Cihan news agency reported on Tuesday. Police and paramedics arrived at the scene and found no bruises or signs of a struggle in the first medical examination of Şirin. While the police said it is possible that Şirin committed suicide, a fellow employee said he remembers the young woman leaving the restaurant laughing and in good spirits.
Meanwhile, in Kütahya, a woman who abandoned her 15-day-old baby at an apartment complex left a note that read, “If my family finds out, we’ll both die.”
Security camera footage reveals a woman leaving her female infant, wrapped in a blanket, on the basement floor of an apartment complex. The note she attached to her baby’s blanket read: “I can no longer take care of my child. I was raped. Her father refuses to accept the child. If my family finds out, they will kill us both. The state will look after her better than I.”