By Venia Kontogianni,
When it became known in March that Turkey had pulled out from the Istanbul Convention, a treaty, which Turkey was the first to sign in 2011, the news made a sensation. The Convention protects women from domestic abuse, i.e., basic human rights regarding personal safety. After a worldwide condemnation, a twisted joke started circulating the Twitter world, which became a devastating and stomach-turning reality. Some conspiring netizens were using the hashtag #12nisan to spread their decision to declare the dates April 12th and April 24th as what they shamelessly and contemptuously call “Rape Day”, blatantly making a mockery out of global efforts to make strides in the consolidation of basic female rights. On April 12th, pictures depicting people wielding tools that can be used as weapons and physically assault women, saw the light of day. The seriousness of that heinous trend is unclear, but the reality is not far from it: femicide has risen off the charts in recent years and Turkey’s pull out from the treaty only made it easier.
In a -the least- archaic manner, to put it lightly, the Turkish administration is under the impression that the treaty promotes homosexuality and undermines family values. While their deducing skills are laughable at first, the comedy turns to an enraging travesty because the Turkish government’s train of thought essentially is “better have the women unprotected by law than the men being gay”. This female vulnerability before the law, which is found commonly in Asian states, has made femicide one of the main criminal activities taking place in the country. The number of women getting killed or abused on a daily basis, domestically or publicly, generate revolt, and the situation is particularly concerning, thinking that the official records are exclusive of the unrecorded cases. This is due to the victims’ unwillingness to come forward in order to avoid social condemnation and the non-cooperation of the male-dominated authorities, that disregard their claims.
According to Turkish female rights organization We Will Stop Femicide, 474 women were killed by men in Turkey in 2019, 300 in 2020, while 171 died under unclear or suspicious circumstances last year. In January 2021, the numbers shaped up to 23 murders and 14 suspicious deaths, and in March 2021, 28 and 19, respectively. The data indicate that the murders are numerically stable, pointing out an absence of enforced preventive laws or harsh convictions, ergo a sense of confidence by the killers, and ultimately, the consolidation of those murders as acceptable, everyday occurrences. The organization also makes a point of mentioning some cases of suspicious causes of death, because they feel like authorities did not put in enough research and wrote off deaths as suicides, although some clues may not have had added up, e.g., women who allegedly committed suicide after having taken restrictive measures against abusive ex-partners or hanged bodies with blunt force traumas.
Some have hypothesized that this treaty is to blame for an alleged “masculinity crisis”; according to them, female empowerment leads to financial independence, therefore more women realize that having a husband is obsolete for their survival. Then, men feel unimportant and react violently so as to subjugate them again and establish their masculinity. While there is some truth to that claim, as spouses often forbid their wives to work in fear of feeling redundant or not in charge, it is beyond the point: the Istanbul Convention merely protects victims of abuse. It is but a natural continuation of national law, not a feminist doctrine. It is worth noting that the treaty was signed under a different presidency, which normally should not hold any relevancy, but it’s not surprising considering Erdogan’s neo-ottoman ideologies that, aside from expansionism, carry an overpowering stench of sexism, patriarchy, and, well… dictatorship.
Femicide is prevalent in Latin America as well, with Argentina and Mexico being two of the most dangerous places for women, with the latter reporting a staggering 939 cases of femicide in 2020, and a 25% rise in domestic violence reports during the first Covid-19 lockdown.
In India, another contender in extreme gender violence and inequalities, just last month, a teenage girl was paraded in the streets while tied with a rope to her rapist, as the crowd ridiculed and spat on her, because she “dishonored her family”. In the neighboring Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan recently linked rape to the way women dress, claiming that women should dress more conservatively to “stop temptation”, because “not every man has willpower”. As expected, the ignorant-towards-the-causes-of -rape statements sparked quite the uproar among women, who marched the streets asking for stricter punishments and more convictions for rapists. While Minister Khan’s office tried to backtrack in a Golden Raspberry Award-worthy, falsely sympathetic announcement, the country still takes no significant steps to pivot away from its trusty ol’ friend, the victim-blaming; women in the region are still treated as if they enable the acts of the perpetrators.
It goes without saying that these events obstruct the continuation of the fight towards establishing basic human rights and deter the advance of radical change in protecting the physical integrity, dignity and freedom of women. One cannot believe we have achieved equality when in some parts of the world women are daily afraid of getting killed and/or raped. Women need more than a law system reformation; women need a new social framework that includes a shift in mentality for the everyday person: a mentality that is neither against them nor diminishes them.
- BBC, Domestic violence: Turkey pulls out of Istanbul convention. Available here.
- Balkan Insight, Femicides and Violence Overshadow Women’s Day Protests in Turkey. Available here.
- DW, Turkey’s long history of femicides. Available here.
- Statista, Number of femicides in Mexico from January 2019 to January 2021. Available here.
- The Guardian, Biden rebukes Turkey after it quits accord protecting women. Available here.
- The New York Times, She Told Relatives She’d Been Raped. They Paraded Her and the Suspect. Available here.
- The New York Times, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Links Rape to ‘Vulgarity’ and How Women Dress. Available here.
- We Will Stop Femicide, 2019 Report of We Will End Femicide Platform. Available here.
- We Will Stop Femicide, 2020 Report of We Will End Femicide Platform. Available here.
- We Will Stop Femicide, January 2021 Report of We Will End Femicide Platform. Available here.
- We Will Stop Femicide, March 2021 Report of We Will End Femicide Platform. Available here.