The Femicide Problem in Turkey

Definition and different types of femicide

The gender-based term “femicide” was first used by the feminist author Diana Russell in 1976 and it was accepted as an alternative to the term “homicide”. (3) Russell defined “femicide” as:

Femicide applies to all forms of sexist killing that is motivated by a sense of entitlement to or superiority over women, by pleasure or sadistic desires toward them, or by an assumption of ownership of women.” (4)

It should be mentioned that femicide is understood as the murder of women because of their gender, regardless of commitment in the family, in a domestic partnership, in an interpersonal relationship, by anyone in the family. (5)

For a better understanding of this article, the following is a classification and explanation of different types of femicide. Only the most common types of femicide in Turkish context were chosen, so it is possible not to go beyond the extent of the article:

  • Intimate femicide: The relationship or intimate connection are the main motives for the perpetrator (husband, partner, ex-husband, ex-partner, lover etc.). This term describes also the situation where a man kills a woman who refuses to be in an intimate (sexual or emotional) relationship with him.
     
  • Non-intimate femicide: Involves the killing of a woman by someone with whom she did not share an intimate partner relationship.
     
  • Culturally-framed femicide: This type of femicide describes the killing of a woman who is framed within a particular cultural context such as “honour”-based femicide or dowryrelated femicide.

- “Honour”-based femicide: Involves the killing of a woman because the perpetrator believed that her behavior is dishonorable (choice of partner as inappropriate, inappropriate clothing, premarital sex or even the thought/belief that premarital sex had occurred). From the perspective of the perpetrator it is believed that the honour of the family is restored, when the woman is killed.

- Dowry-related femicides: A dowry is a cultural tradition and the bride’s family provides money and/or property to the groom’s family. When a larger amount of dowry is requested and the demands and promises are not fulfilled, then a male person (husband or sometimes in-laws) kills the bride.

  • Racist femicide: The killing of a woman because of her ethnic or racial origins or her genetic features.
     
  • Transphobic femicide: The killing of a transgender or transphobic woman because of her transsexual/gender identity.
     
  • Femicide in the context of prostitution: The killing of a woman who is participated in what is referred to as sex work or prostitution. Reasons for this type of femicide are patriarchy and stigmatization by society. (6)

Turkey’s femicide problem

As already mentioned, femicide is still a big problem in Turkey, which is denied by the authorities. In fact, statistics show that current preventive measures are far from sufficient. According to the data of “We Will Stop Femicide Platform” collected from media institutions and shared information from affected family members, it is noted, that there has been a significant increase in the rate of femicide in Turkey: 328 women in 2016, 409 women in 2017, 440 women in 2018 and 474 women in 2019 were victims of femicide. A main task of the “We Will Stop Femicide Platform” is to record, to edit and to publish reliable data and further information regarding femicide for their monthly publication. On their official website all femicide cases in Turkey are listed.

The fact, that in 2018, the Ministry of Internal Affairs published data about femicide, shows that this phenomenon was acknowledged by using the term “femicide” for the first time. One year later - again for the first time - the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services, the Ministry of Justice and Gendarmerie and the Cost Guard Academy jointly published data about femicide and verified the increase in femicide and violence against women. (7)

When we think about the numbers approved in the report about femicide (2019) by the “We Will Stop Femicide Platform”, it becomes clear that 474 women were killed in 2019: 134 women were murdered by their husband, 25 women were murdered by their ex-husband, 51 women by men they were together with, 8 of them by whom they were formerly in a relationship and 29 women were murdered by their uncle, father in law or other male relatives. Unfortunately, these are not all brutal facts about femicide: 19 women were murdered by acquaintance, 15 by their father, 13 by their brother, 25 by their son or neighbour and 155 women were murdered by people they did not know. The location of these killings and violent acts from men can be determined as follows: Women were mostly killed in their own homes (292 women) but also in the street (52 women), in the car (9 women), in a shop (3 women), in an entertainment area (2 women), in a hospital (2 women), in the workplace (6 women), in a café (1 woman), in a school (1 woman), in a hotel (5 women), in a park (5 women) and in another public area (1 woman). The bodies of 31 women were found in areas such as: lakes, ponds, irrigation canals, rivers, streams, riverside, seaside and beach. Thirty two of them were killed or found dead in areas such as: woods, forest, pasture, picnic areas or garden. (8)

Femicide will be an important problem with its changing dimensions for Turkish society unless it is determined why women are killed, by whom women are killed, unless fair trials are made, unless murderers do not receive deterrent punishments and unless the implementation of preventive measures are not accomplished in rapid development.

The current report from “We Will Stop Femicide Platform” (February 2020) shows that 22 women were killed by men and 12 women were found death suspiciously. Also, 15 women were killed because they wanted to make a decision about their own life, they wanted to leave their partners, they did not accept marriage proposals and also women with state-controlled protection were killed by men. (9)

In 2012, Turkey became the first country to ratify the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe agreement on preventing violence against women and domestic violence. In the same year, Turkey’s law no. 6284 (10) was enacted pursuant to the Istanbul Convention’s obligations to eliminate violence against women. This law aims to protect and to develop measures to assist women. Under the current government the data of femicide rates are unavailable to the public, which is a problem for citizens who should be sensitized and mobilized for this problematic issue. Many critics say that the policies of the government are responsible for the growing number of murders and assaults against women. (11) Although Turkey managed to implement the Istanbul Convention, the patriarchy system and the male-dominated mentality are one of the main reasons why women cannot be accepted as individuals who do not want to be killed because of their gender. (12)  What should be done is quite obvious: The Istanbul Agreement should be fully enforced to stop femicide in Turkey. Violence against women cannot be reduced by hiding it. Gender-based violence must be stopped because it affects and is able to encapsulate both victim and society in a negative way.

Femicide Observatory in Turkey: “We Will Stop Femicide Platform”

A femicide observatory operates within a broader context concerning the collection and analysis of data on violence against women. Especially gender statistics are very important, because then it is possible to design, support and implement public policies which aim to prevent, punish and eliminate femicide. (13) These main tasks and aspects of a femicide observatory can be transferred to the “We Will Stop Femicide Platform” in Turkey, which manages a systematic collection and analysis of data for monitor all forms of violence against women. Every time a woman is killed, other women who are defying the male dominance and the patriarchal system, are affected and moved.

The “We Will Stop Femicide Platform” is calling for a better protection for women. This platform strives for counting and tracking all femicide cases in Turkey. For a long time, both the government and the Turkish justice system have pretended not to realize and perceive the problem. The number of registered murders of women in Turkey are provided by the “We Will Stop Femicide Platform”, so the internet/social media community and women’s rights groups put pressure on the government and judiciary. It is believed that the public pressure will reach social transformations and will affect the procedures of state representatives.

The “We Will Stop Femicide Platform” is authorized to encourage the production of studies and research on the evolution, types and modalities of femicide. For the objectives and measures to be achieved, the civil society is invited to participate, cooperate, collaborate and create a data broadcasting network. It is an advantage when this database is updated constantly and is open to the public. Research centers, academic institutions, civil society organizations and representatives should work together to support the implementation and promotion of public debates. Moreover, analyzing of database for developing and supporting strategies helps to change and deconstruct the social patterns, discourses and gender stereotypes. (14)

The Platform’s Activities

The activity fields include law, press, social media, graphic design, donations and financial support. The Platform’s priority is to provide legal assistance to women who want to be safe from violence. It requires the government and the authorities to duty in order to implement the Istanbul Convention and the law no. 6284, organizes and plans workshops to inform women of their rights, transacts press works and supports social awareness. Another important activity is the involvement in the femicide cases with lawyers and representatives and also fighting for rights of families of the murdered women. (15) 

However, the platform invites the Ministry of Family and Social Policies to adopt their demands and measures and to get involved in the cases in favor of women who demand justice. The “We Will Stop Femicide Platform” works for the solution of the legal problems and participated in the establishing and discussion of the “Law for Protection of Family and Prevention of Violence Against Women No. 6284”. Furthermore, it cooperates with the Turkish justice by exposing the truth about the “doubtful death” cases, which were treated as “suicides” and later they were closed. In this way, the platform encourages the local courts and The Court of Appeals to make precedential decisions in the cases regarding women’s protection, sexual assault and femicide. The femicide observatory platform believes that it is important to monitor and update data, provide reliable and objective information, measures and research for fighting femicide. Finally, the recommendations and preventive measures of “We Will Stop Femicide Platform” are presented:

  • All political authorities and parties must condemn and take a stand against femicide.
     
  • The Istanbul Convention and the protection law no. 6284 should be implemented successfully and efficiently.
     
  • Adding an accepting an additional clause to the Turkish Penal Code regarding “aggravated life imprisonment”.
     
  • A Ministry of Women should be founded.
     
  • The “We Will Stop Femicide Platform” demands a new constitution in which gender and sexual orientation equality are in high priority. (16)For more information about femicide and the Istanbul Convention in general, please check the official website of UN Women.(17) UN Women regularly publishes statements about confronting femicide and the brutal reality of violence against women. There are also solutions about passing and implementing effective laws and policies (The Istanbul Convention).

An Article by Fatma Uysal, PhD student in Art and Cultural Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

Comments 

  1. Diner, Çağla / Toktaş, Şule, “Women’s Shelters in Turkey. A Qualitative Study on Shortcomings of Policy Making and Implementation”, in: Violence Against Women, vol. 19, 2013, p.351.
     
  2. 10 Soruda Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu, http://kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net/hakkimizda, last access on: 02.04.2020. Original quote: "Kadınların eşit haklara kavuşması için önümüzde azim gerektiren uzun bir mücadele var. Şu anda kadınların hayatını kurtarmak için elimizden gelenin en iyisini yaparsak, hayatını kurtardığımız kız kardeşlerimizle dayanışma içinde gelecekte haklarımız için savaşabiliriz."
     
  3. Roth, Françoise / Villa, Alejandro Valencia, Latin American Model Protocol for the investigation of gender-related killings of women (femicide /feminicide), 2015, https://lac.unwomen. org/en/digiteca/publicaciones/2014/10/modelo-de-protocolo, p.13, last access on: 27.03.2020.
     
  4. Russell, Diana E.H. / Harmes, Roberta A., Femicide in Global Perspective, New York: Teachers College Press 2001, p. 77-78.
     
  5. Cf. Roth, Françoise / Villa, Alejandro Valencia 2015, p.13.
     
  6.   Ersoy, Gökhan / Toprak, Sadık, “Femicide in Turkey between 2000 and 2010”, in: plos one, vol. 12 no.8, 2017, https://doi. org/10.1371/journal. pone.0182409, last access: 01.04.2020.
     
  7.   2019 Report of We Will End Femicide Platform, http:// kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net/veriler/2890/2019-reportof-we-will-end-femicide-platform, last access on: 30.03.2020
     
  8.   2019 Report of We Will End Femicide Platform, http:// kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net/veriler/2890/2019-reportof-we-will-end-femicide-platform, last access on: 30.03.2020.
  9. 2020 February Report of “We Will End Femicide Platform”, http://kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net/veriler/2897/2020- february-report-of-we-will-end-femicide-platform, last access on: 30.03.2020.
     
  10. “Law for Protection of Family and Prevention of Violence Against Women No. 6284”
     
  11. Güneş, Ayşe, “Legal Implications of Turkey’s Accessions to the Istanbul Convention by Enacting and Refining Its Laws on Violence Against Women”, in: Women and Criminal Justice, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1080/08974454.2019.1697792, last access on: 30.03.2020.
     
  12. Azor, Solange, “Turkey’s Femicide Problem”, in: Middle East, Harvard Political Review, 2015, https://harvardpolitics.com/ world/turkeys-femicide-problem/, last access on: 30.03.2020.
     
  13. Femicide Report: Femicide Observatory, 2017, http://www.dpn.gob.ar/documentos/Observatorio_Femicidios_-_ Femicide_Report_2017.pdf, last access on: 01.04.2020.
     
  14. 10 Soruda Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu, http:// kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net/hakkimizda, last access on: 02.04.2020.
     
  15. For the court cases followed all over Turkey, please check http://kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net.

References

Azor, Solange, “Turkey’s Femicide Problem”, in: Middle East, Harvard Political Review, 2015, https://harvardpolitics.com/world/turkeysfemicide-problem/, last access on: 30.03.2020.

Diner, Çağla /Toktaş, Şule, “Women’s Shelters in Turkey. A Qualitative Study on Shortcomings of Policy Making and Implementation”, in: Violence Against Women, vol. 19, 2013.

Ersoy, Gökhan/ Toprak, Sadık, “Femicide in Turkey between 2000 and 2010”, in: plos one, vol. 12 no.8, 2017, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pone.0182409, last access: 01.04.2020.

Femicide Report of We Will End Femicide Platform (2019), http://kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net/ veriler/2890/2019-report-of-we-will-endfemicide-platform, last access on: 30.03.2020.

February Report (2020) of “We Will End Femicide Platform”, http://kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz. net/veriler/2897/2020-february-report-ofwe-will-end-femicide-platform, last access on: 30.03.2020.

Femicide Report: Femicide Observatory, 2017, http://www.dpn.gob.ar/documentos/ Observatorio_Femicidios_-_Femicide_ Report_2017.pdf, last access on: 01.04.2020.

Güneş, Ayşe, “Legal Implications of Turkey’s Accessions to the Istanbul Convention by Enacting and Refining Its Laws on Violence Against Women”, in: Women and Criminal Justice, 2019, https://doi. org/10.1080/08974454.2019.1697792, last access on: 30.03.2020.

Roth, Françoise / Villa, Alejandro Valencia, Latin American Model Protocol for the investigation of gender-related killings of women (femicide / feminicide), 2015, https://lac.unwomen.org/ en/digiteca/publicaciones/2014/10/modelo-deprotocolo, last access on: 27.03.2020.

Russell, Diana E.H. / Harmes, Roberta A., Femicide in Global Perspective, New York: Teachers College Press 2001.

UN Women, www.unwomen.org

10 Soruda Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu, http://kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz. net/hakkimizda, last access on: 02.04.2020.