Pervasive Domestic Abuse in Turkey
Tuesday, May 24, 2005 2:30 PM

Turkey has engaged in extensive judicial and legislative reform efforts in the way of human rights in order to achieve full membership in the EU, but women's rights continue to lag behind. An Amnesty International report recently indicated that "up to half of all Turkish women may have been victims of family violence." Tradition and the conservative nature of the ruling party has prevented positive change.

The government continues to allow virginity testing to determine if a women has lost her virginity, and thereby damaged the honor of the family. In extreme cases, women are killed to protect the honor of the family.  One 24 year old woman was killed in 2003, presumably for disgracing the family by getting pregnant, after failed attempts to obtain police protection.

Women's rights issues are brought forth by many advocates in various forums. Women's rights groups have made attempts to classify honor killings as aggravated homicide. A parliamentary committee proposed an amendment to the constitution calling for affirmative action in government hiring and elections. Both attempts failed. Other advocates are calling for monitoring by the EU.

Legislation that does exist in Turkey is ineffective. Because there is little protection for them, women are often unwilling to report the abuse. Police are sometimes unwilling to investigate or prosecute cases that are reported. In addition, many officials who deal with victims of domestic abuse are not properly trained. So, the victims have nowhere to turn. Women's advocates indicate that there is a "dire lack of shelters for abused and threatened women in Turkey, which has eight shelters and a population of 65 million. Sweden, by contrast, with a population of 8 million, has more than 120 shelters." The victims of this abuse need laws to protect them, public officials who will enforce the laws and resources for healing and recovery.

Compiled from: "Turkey Doing Little to Protect Women's Lives." Schleifer, Yigal. Womens eNews. 24 May 2005.