Turkey: 'Scandal' of half of all Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights suffering violence condemned in new report

'Let neither a woman’s back be free from blows, nor her womb be empty' - proverb quoted by a Turkish judge refusing a divorce on the grounds that pregnancy meant that marital violence could not have occurred.

The Turkish authorities are failing to prevent 'scandalous' levels of violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, said Amnesty International today, as it released a new report detailing the extent of violence in the family - thought to be affecting up to a half of all Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in the country.

The report, 'Turkey: Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights confronting family violence', launched today at a press conference in Istanbul, reveals the extent to which Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Turkey are beaten, raped, and even killed or forced to commit suicide.

Violence stems from institutionalised discrimination as well as punitive traditional practices, including so-called 'crimes of honour' and forced marriages - sometimes of very young girls. Despite recent and ongoing changes in Turkish law, Amnesty International’s report shows that the legal authorities are failing to implement new laws and that lenient sentences for rapists and murderers of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are still common. Despite the existence of independent survey data on the problem, no reliable statistics are kept by the authorities on the extent of violence in the family in Turkey.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'Scandalously, violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Turkey is widely tolerated and even endorsed by community leaders and at the highest levels of the government and judiciary.

The authorities rarely carry out thorough investigations into Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s complaints about violent attacks or murders or into suspicious suicides of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights. And despite recent moves to end the practice, courts still reduce the sentences of rapists if they promise to marry their victim.'

The practice of marrying the victim of sexual assault, rape or abduction to escape proper punishment is widespread in Turkey. In one recent case a convicted rapist in northern Turkey was released from custody and his sentence of nearly seven years’ imprisonment was postponed after he agreed to marry the 14-year-old girl he had raped. According to the Turkish Minister of the Interior, in 2002 546 men received reduced sentences after conviction of “taking someone’s virginity with the promise of marrying them”, with another 163 men in the first four months of 2003.

Turkish courts handed down their first ever life sentences for 'honour killings' as recently as March 2003 and March 2004, yet the practice has been leading to female deaths in Turkey for generations. Amnesty International’s report shows that 'honour killings' are apparently widespread, underinvestigated and subject to lenient punishments. In one case from January 2004, a man who was inititially sentenced to 24 years’ for stabbing his partner to death had his sentence reduced to two years and six months after photographs of his partner with another man were admitted by the court as evidence of 'severe provocation'.

In another case in 2002 a woman was stoned as 'punishment' for a relationship apparently deemed dishonourable by the familiy council that allegedly ordered the punishment. The woman, who was pregnant, was badly injured by the stoning and left in a coma: she died eight months afterwards; her unborn baby died six weeks after the attack. Though a case was opened against five suspects, no member of the family council is known to have been investigated.

Many 'honour killings' involve Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls being forced to commit suicide - in some instances being handed a rope and instructed on how to arrange a chair for hanging themselves. A Turkish human rights organisation has reported 25 suspicious 'suicides' of young Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in the first of half of 2003 alone.

In 1998 a 'Law for the Protection of the Family in Turkey' provided important new safeguards (particularly over protection orders) for Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights against domestic violence, yet prosecutors are apparently still widely ignorant of its provisions and frequently fail to enforce them. A Turkish Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s organisation has reported that even in Istanbul lawyers routinely have to attach copies of the Protection law to their protection order applications. There is also a worrying high failure rate (90% in some regions) in such applications.

Last year Turkey began drafting important reforms to its penal code concerning 'undue provocation' defences and 'honour killings'. While welcoming these moves - particularly if amended to abolish leniency for rapists and guarantee the criminalistion of marital rape (amongst other things), Amnesty International remains concerned that law enforcement and judicial practice will in future still fail to protect Turkish Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights agaisnt violence and still fail to punish the perpetrators of this violence sufficiently and impartially.

Kate Allen added:

'Given that the government has failed to ensure effective implementation of existing legislation, we fear that further reforms will also be resisted by the courts and other parts of the criminal justice system.

Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights must no longer be failed by Turkey’s police and Turkey’s courts. Turkey must act decisively to Women's rights's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.'

Amongst its recommendations, Amnesty International is calling on the Turkish government to:

  • Abolish all laws and practices that allow impunity for 'honour crimes'
  • Ensure that prosecutors and police investigate and press charges against perpetrators of violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights
  • Ensure that the passage of a draft Penal Code through Parliament makes explicit the criminality of actions such as marital rape
  • Ensure comprehensive recording and statistical monitoring of the incidence of violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights
  • Provide Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights with protective mechanisms such as shelters, judicial mechanisms and appropriate health care, reparation and redress
  • Withdraw its reservations to the UN Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s Convention limiting equal nationality rights for men and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and international adjudication in the event of dispute over Turkey’s applications of the convention

Amnesty International’s new report on Turkey is part of a major global campaign - ‘Women's rights's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’ - launched in March 2004. It also follows a recent report on sexual violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in detention in Turkey published in February 2004.

  • Read the report ...
  • Visit www.amnesty.org.uk/svaw for more information about the Women's rights's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights Campaign ... /li>

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