The recent murder of 27-year-old student, Pınar Gültekin, has sparked widespread outrage in Turkey. Gültekin was murdered at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, who beat and strangled her to death. Current anger is a response to not just this brutal slaying, but to the all-too-common occurrence of femicide and domestic violence in Turkey. In addition, the anger is a result of the willful ignorance of the government when it comes to these crimes. Here are the top five facts about femicide in Turkey.
5 Facts About Femicide in Turkey
- Gender-based and domestic homicides are often referred to as “honor killings.” Anti-female sentiments are deeply engrained in Turkish culture. The President of Turkey and other members of the Turkish government have made many comments publicly degrading women. The usual rhetoric is that women are not equal to men and that women without children are deficient. Members of the Turkish government have also publicly encouraged verbal harassment of women wearing shorts. The country’s former Deputy Prime Minister, Mehmet Şimşek, blamed the rising unemployment rate on women seeking jobs. Former mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, said that women who are victims of rape should die before they have an abortion.
- Femicide in Turkey is on the rise. The Turkish government has admitted to not keeping records of violence against women, but the Turkish feminist group We Will Stop Femicide reported that 474 women were murdered in Turkey in 2019, mostly at the hands of relatives or partners. These numbers are expected to skyrocket in 2020 due to coronavirus lockdowns. A study conducted by Sage Journals in 2009 reported that 42% of Turkish women between the ages of 15 and 60 experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse from their husband or partner.
- Legal framework has been laid to protect women. In 2011, Turkey became the first country to adopt a Council of Europe convention on gender-based and domestic violence. This was the Istanbul Convention, which provided legislation to protect victims and prosecute offenders. However, law enforcement rarely follow these basic laws. The laws are under further threat by President Erdoğan and the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP). The AKP has tried to roll back this legislation on the grounds that it threatens traditional family values. Furthermore, conservative lobby groups protest the legislation outlined in the Istanbul Convention on the grounds that it promotes divorce and “immoral lifestyles.”
- Female empowerment has led to women in Turkey achieving economic independence. This is a huge step, as it gives women the ability to exercise their rights and leave abusive relationships. However, workplace and wage discrimination is still widespread throughout Turkey. Only 34.2% of Turkish women work, which is by far the lowest percentage of employed women in the 35 industrialized countries. Women are also more likely to work low-wage jobs or to be employed in the informal sector with no social security. Turkey ranked 130th out of 149 countries on the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap Index.
- The Turkish government practically encourages gender-based violence. The rise of female independence has led to what feminist scholar Fatmagül Berktay calls a “crisis of masculinity.” She claims that the reduced need for men to be breadwinners has caused them to feel displaced, and as a result, they often engage in physical, sexual, psychological or economic abuse against their partners. Political tension in Turkey also promotes gender-based violence. Religious militarism is a rising state ideology in Turkey, which promotes misogyny and makes women easier targets of abuse. In addition to these factors, the government’s benign attitude toward violence against women encourages male offenders and, by extension, femicide in Turkey.
While many of these facts can appear disheartening, Turkey also demonstrates plenty of improvement. We Will End Femicide and similar groups are empowering women in Turkey to fight for their rights. Protests across Turkey have seen inspiring turnout since the death of Pınar Gültekin was made public on July 21. Western nations have also been made aware of the prevalence of femicide in Turkey via social media, and women around the world are joining the #challengeaccepted trend to raise awareness of the issue on social media.
– Caroline Warrick