Nearly half of Turkey’s women suffer abuse

Nearly half of Turkey’s women suffer abuse

http://www.abc.net.au/correspondents/content/2011/s3271045.htm

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Human Rights Watch is calling on the Turkish government to do more to protect women from domestic and sexual violence.

A study has found that 42 per cent of Turkish women suffer physical or sexual violence at the hands of their husband or partner, despite tough laws designed to protect them.

But women’s advocate and researcher Gauri van Gulik says the laws are rarely enforced.

Our reporter Ashley Hall spoke to her from Berlin.

GAURI VAN GULIK: The main thing that I have to say about the abuse in Turkey is that the level is quite extreme. Now we see abuse everywhere we work but what we encountered in Turkey was really not just the daily beatings or just sexual abuse but also very severe kinds of abuse like poisoning, we encountered cases of stabbings, gunfights as well, horrible cases of abuse, very, very sickening frankly. And we encountered that throughout the country in different areas of the country.

ASHLEY HALL: And you encountered it you say because you met these women and heard their stories?

GAURI VAN GULIK: Exactly, yes. We spoke to the women themselves, but we also spoke to lawyers as well as health workers and social workers, police officers as well. So we’ve really got a good picture of the kind of abuse that’s happening and particularly what happens with women when they reach out and they try to get help for themselves.

ASHLEY HALL: So there’s a study that shows that about 42 per cent of women in Turkey have experienced physical or sexual violence at that hands of their husbands or partner. Were you surprised at this statistic?

GAURI VAN GULIK: We were and to be honest with you it is one of the reasons that we picked to work on Turkey. It shows a really troubling picture.

I think 42 per cent is very high and it’s in fact the first study that has been done in the country that really gives a reliable picture of what the prevalence rate is. Forty-two is incredibly high and it’s even 46 in rural areas, so even higher in those areas outside cities.

ASHLEY HALL: In response to this concern the government in Turkey has passed strong laws to protect women. Why are they not making a change?

GAURI VAN GULIK: Well this is exactly the second reason why we worked on Turkey is this incredible paradox between progress that has been made on the one hand, which is really quite impressive and it has to be said that there have been incredible reform of the penal code, there’s been a protection system in place, but on the other hand it’s just a lack of enforcement.

We studied why that is and we’ve really followed women through the system and there’s no easy answer, but a large part of it lies in attitudes, and still a lack of regard for women’s issues, for women’s problems, for a severe sort of putting family as the whole, as an institution on a pedestal.

So the family is more important than the woman individually, and we see that police officers turn away women when they look for help, prosecutors saying no when women come to them for help, judges even do that et cetera et cetera. So there are problems throughout the system.

ASHLEY HALL: You say that they want this change. But I wonder, to what extent have these new laws been brought in to satisfy Turkey’s desire to become a closer part of Europe and to what extent they are an expression of the will of the people of Turkey?

GAURI VAN GULIK: It’s tricky, that of course. It’s a valid question. I think on the one hand sure, a lot of the reforms have been adopted in that period where Turkey was still very eager to join the European Union, where they did everything to change their books and I think things have changed since then.

One thing that is a positive sign is that now in this period where Turkey is turning away a little bit from the European Union, it’s becoming a power in its own right and I think still now they have hosted, for example, a new convention on domestic violence that’s Europe-wide, it’s broader than the European Union, it’s just a sign that they do take it seriously, and there’s also nationally quite a lot of interest in this issue.

So we see it for example in the election, it was a big part of the campaigns. So we have seen quite some change there. But of course these are baby steps and it’s quite slow but we do see some progress and also some ownership of the issue.

So indeed quite a lot of interest locally, a lot of national parties take this on as an issue. So it’s a little bit more than just trying to pander to European wishes.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Gauri van Gulik, a researcher and women’s advocate with Human Rights Watch, speaking there to Ashley Hall.

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