Women’s rights activists slam government proposal to tackle gender-based violence as ‘inadequate’

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Women’s rights activists have criticized a government proposal to tackle gender-based violence, saying it is inadequate to protect women and soft on perpetrators of violence, the Duvar news site reported.

The proposal was presented by the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and sent to parliament for debate. According to the proposal, if the perpetrator of the violence shows remorse, he can benefit from a reduced sentence.

Canan Güllü, from the Turkish Federation of Women’s Organizations (TKDF), said violence against women had serious consequences, sometimes resulting in death, and that it was unthinkable to ask for sentence reductions.

“Can we talk about remorse in cases of femicide? she asked. “We want authorities to recognize that gender-based violence is a serious crime with serious consequences.”

The proposal also stated that if the perpetrator of the violence or femicide was married or divorced from the victim, their sentence would be increased. However, Güllü said the clause was insufficient because it excluded boyfriends and married couples under religious law.

Although religious marriages are common in Turkey, they are not recognized by the state.

“I don’t think experts in the field of gender-based violence were consulted when drafting this proposal,” Güllü said.

Fidan Ataselim of the We Will Stop Femicide Platform (Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu), said the government’s proposal does not introduce any strong reforms to address gender-based violence.

“More recently, a woman was stabbed to death for not accepting a former boyfriend’s marriage proposal. The Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a reduced sentence for the perpetrator, saying he would not ‘wouldn’t have murdered if she had accepted his proposal,’ Ataselim said. ‘Judges are already implementing sentence reductions, and this is unacceptable.’

Ataselim added that the biggest problem with the proposal was that it did not mention gender equality. Without recognizing gender equality, activists argue that gender-based violence cannot really be tackled.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and prominent conservative government and media figures have repeatedly stated that they view gender equality as contrary to the nature of men and women.

Erdoğan criticized feminists for “not understanding motherhood”, in a 2014 speech, saying Islam places high value on women because of their ability to bear and raise children.

Activists agree that the only way to truly tackle femicide and violence was to reinstate the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence , better known as the Istanbul Convention.

The international agreement was designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies and was opened for signature by Council of Europe member countries in 2011.

Erdoğan sparked outrage in Turkey and the international community after issuing a decree in March 2021 that removed the country from the international treaty, which requires governments to pass legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well than marital rape and female genital mutilation. .

Amid calls from women’s rights organizations and world leaders, such as US President Joe Biden, for the reinstatement of the Istanbul Convention, the Council of State has so far rejected many appeals demanding the cancellation of Erdoğan’s executive decree withdrawing Turkey from the agreement.

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