European & International News

Turkey - Women left unprotected from violence, says Human Rights Watch

[Human Rights Watch, Brussels, 10 May 2011] Turkey’s flawed family violence protection system leaves women and girls across the country unprotected against domestic abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Life-saving protections, including court-issued protection orders and emergency shelters, are not available for many abuse victims because of gaps in the law and enforcement failures.

The 58-page report, “‘He Loves You, He Beats You’: Family Violence in Turkey and Access to Protection,” documents brutal and long-lasting violence against women and girls by husbands, partners, and family members and the survivors’ struggle to seek protection. Turkey has strong protection laws, setting out requirements for shelters for abused women and protection orders. However, gaps in the law and implementation failures by police, prosecutors, judges, and other officials make the protection system unpredictable at best, and at times downright dangerous.

"With strong laws in place, it is inexcusable that Turkish authorities are depriving family violence victims of basic protections," said Gauri van Gulik, women’s rights advocate and researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. "Turkey has gone through exemplary reform on women’s human rights, but police, prosecutors, judges, and social workers need to make the system exemplary in practice, not just on paper."

Human Rights Watch interviewed women and girls as young as 14 and as old as 65 who described being raped; stabbed; kicked in the abdomen when pregnant; beaten with hammers, sticks, branches, and hoses to the point of broken bones and fractured skulls; locked up with dogs or other animals; starved; shot with a stun gun; injected with poison; pushed off a roof; and subjected to severe psychological violence. The violence occurred in all areas where researchers conducted interviews, and across income and education levels.

This report comes as the Council of Europe is about to adopt a regional convention on violence against women and domestic violence. Turkey played an important role in drafting the convention as the current Chair of the Committee of Ministers, and the convention is scheduled to be signed at a summit in Istanbul on 11 May 2011.

Some 42 percent of women over age 15 in Turkey and 47 percent of rural women have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a husband or partner at some point in their lives, according to a 2009 survey conducted by a leading Turkish university.
The report is based on interviews with, and the case files of, 40 women in Van, Istanbul, Trabzon, Ankara, Izmir, and Diyarbak?r, and dozens of interviews with lawyers, women’s organizations, social workers, government officials, and other experts.

Read or download the full report here.

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