Accessibility links

Turkey: Amnesty International Urges Protection Of Women From Family Violence

  • Kathleen Moore

At least one in three Turkish women have suffered physical violence within their families. That's the finding of a report out today by Amnesty International. It says many women are forced into marriage, beaten, raped, or even murdered in 'honor killings.'

Prague, 2 June 2004 (RFE/RL) -- 14-year-old Nuran Halitogullari was on her way to the supermarket when she was kidnapped and raped.

But it wasn't the Turkish girl's abductor who was punished.

When Nuran was rescued and returned to her family, her father allegedly strangled her and hid her body in a forest. Her crime? Staining the family honor.
"One of the reasons we chose [to report on] the situation in Turkey is because we're building on the strength of work by local women's activists who've been campaigning for a number of years to bring attention to this issue."


Christina Curry is the author of an Amnesty International report on violence against women in Turkey. "As a result of having a violent act perpetrated against her, instead of getting the support of her family -- which is what you would hope or expect in a situation like that -- she was treated to more violence. That was a very difficult case to read about and to report on," Curry says.

The report, which Curry presented today in Istanbul, says at least one in three Turkish women have suffered some form of violence within the family.

They include some 40 women, like Nuran, who are thought to have been murdered in so-called "honor killings" last year.

Domestic violence is not a problem peculiar to Turkey, of course. Amnesty estimates that one in three women worldwide is physically abused in her lifetime. Curry's report is just the latest in a series Amnesty is publishing as part of its "Stop Violence against Women campaign," launched in March.

"One of the reasons we chose [to report on] the situation in Turkey is because we're building on the strength of work by local women's activists who've been campaigning for a number of years to bring attention to this issue. We wanted -- particularly during a period of significant change for Turkey, where a number of very important reforms are taking place -- to try and bring international support to women's activists campaigning for change," Curry said.

Some of the violence Curry documents is the same suffered by women the world over -- beatings, psychological abuse, and rape.

Other acts involve traditional practices. Those include honor killings, forced marriage, and "berdel," where marriageable girls are exchanged between families.

Curry says men -- often incited by family or community members -- use such traditions as a pretext for violence.

"A crime of so-called honor is no excuse for murder. Sometimes this concept of so-called honor -- because it's not honor, it's an excuse -- has degraded to the extent that men feel justified in being able to kill family members because they feel [a family member] is doing something that stains the family honor, like talking to a boy or having a sexual relationship outside marriage or something like that," Curry says.

The report says women who have been abused often face a further problem -- widespread tolerance of such violent acts.

It says authorities rarely conduct thorough investigations of crimes against women. The victims are often returned to their families -- where the beatings begin again. And rapists are often given reduced sentences if they marry the women they've raped.

But there are signs of change.

Courts have begun to hand down more severe sentences for honor killings.

Those more lenient sentences for rapists who marry their victims are set to be abolished, under proposed changes to the penal code that are part of Turkey's drive to join the European Union.

Other reforms will recognize marital rape as a crime, and ensure that child rape can no longer be defended on the grounds of "consent."

But Amnesty has a word of caution.

It says existing laws protecting women are often not properly enforced, and worries future reforms will be resisted by the courts.

It's urging the government to set up shelters for battered women, and to ensure authorities properly investigate and prosecute women's attackers.
XS
SM
MD
LG