Death & Divorce in Turkey
Despite national campaigns, political condemnation and legal reforms, a recent meeting in Turkey uncovered the shocking statistic that the murder rate of women in that nation had skyrocketed by 1,400% between 2002 and 2009.
The statistic recently revealed by the Turkish Justice Ministry has put new focus on the government’s spotty record of supporting women’s rights to marriage and divorce. Even though Turkish women’s groups and the European Union (EU) have acknowledged recent government reform efforts, the questions remaining as to the real commitment of the government to gender equality could have implications for the country’s bid to join the European Union.
According to Justice Ministry figures, 66 women were murdered in 2002 and the number jumped up to 953 murders in the first seven months of 2009. The increase represents a shocking 1,400% rise and accordingly, the news has not been well received in Turkey where newspaper front pages described the situation as the greatest shame of the nation. News headlines reporting another murder of a woman have become a daily occurrence and some worry that the dramatic increase in women murders is part of wider trend of violence against women. Every day there are reports of women being murdered violently with shotguns or knives, usually by a husband or other family members in an honor killing.
Pinar Ilkaracan of the Women for Women’s Human Rights organization pointed out that there is no viable divorce option available for women in Turkish society. “The murders are the tip of iceberg; there is a lot of violence against women. There are thousands, tens of thousands of women, who are experiencing violence from their husbands, but they cannot leave home. First of all, what the government should do is increase the number of shelters. There are 26 shelters in 72 provinces of Turkey. This is a scandal by itself, the lowest number in Europe. For example in Germany there are 800 shelters,” said Ilkaracan. Ilkaracan asserts that while Turkish women may have equality under the law on paper, there is government resistance to implementing any real reforms. Ilkaracan added that “Turkey is the country where the women’s employment is the lowest among OECD countries, the gender gap education is not decreasing and the number of women in decision making positions are also decreasing.”
Of course, the Turkish government rejects the criticisms and claims it has introduced gender equality legislation in compliance with EU nation membership demands. The nation’s Minister of Education said “We have introduced progressive legal reforms to improve women’s rights at home, in school, in the work place. The Turkish Prime also condemned violence against women. “It is beyond contemporary understanding to exercise violence on women. In the traditions and customs of this geography there can be no such thing, as committing violence in the name of honor,” said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The debate over women’s rights in Turkey has long been seen by many as one of the main obstacles in the nation’s bid for EU membership and the news of a 1,400% increase in the murders of women in the nation is certainly not going to improve its chances anytime soon.