may be criminalized in the Penal Code (2004) under general laws against assault and threats.
In addition, Article 96 stipulates that anyone causing torment to their spouse or family members will be sentenced to between three and eight years’ imprisonment, and Article 232 punishes maltreatment of anyone living under the same roof by up to one year’s imprisonment.
Protection orders are available to victims of domestic violence under the Protection of the Family Law (1998).
The law requires the abuser to vacate the home and refrain from contacting or approaching the victim. A judge may order the perpetrator to make maintenance payments to the victim. In March 2008, a regulation on the law further stipulated that law enforcement agents must monitor compliance with the order, including via weekly visits to the house.
In 2012, the protection order law was amended to allow police to issue emergency protection orders without going through normal court procedures and to allow courts to order abusers to be tracked with electronic monitoring devices. Also, it extended protection to all women, married or not.
Turkey’s Parliament (the General Assembly) passed a law on March 8, 2012, notably on International Women’s Day, designed to prevent domestic violence against women.
Despite the implementation of harsh measures for those who inflict violence against women in the new law, women’s rights groups have come out against what they call drastic changes to the bill, including its name, which was changed to the “Draft law to protect family and prevent violence against women,” from the “Draft law to protect women and individual family members from violence” as previously agreed by women’s rights groups and the Family and Social Policy Ministry. Concerned groups have also said there are crucial shortcomings in the legislation with regards to how the law is implemented.
Previously, a 2011 report on domestic violence in Turkey by Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted that a major gap in the protection order system was that it only covered “spouses” or family members, thus potentially excluding women who were divorced, in unofficial religious marriages, or had been in dating relationships. Whether a judge decided to interpret the law flexibly to provide protection against a non-official spouse was essentially a “lottery” for many women.
The 2012 amendment closes this gap and extends the definition of victim to anyone who can be considered a family member whether or not they live with the perpetrator.
The U.S. State Department reported that courts in Turkey regularly issue restraining orders to protect victims, though they may not be enforced effectively.
The HRW report enumerated several deficiencies with the protection order system, aside from the aforementioned limitation on coverage prior to 2012. It cited a large study by academics in 2009 that found a significant share of women in Turkey—a majority in the East—did not know about the protection law.
Moreover, according to HRW, even if women are aware of the law, many, particularly in Kurdish regions, are afraid to seek protection because they distrust state institutions or face language barriers.
It addition, “all too often, police, prosecutors, or judges to whom women might turn for help send them back to the abusive situations, push for reconciliation [within the family], ask for medical records, or delay the process significantly.”
Economic dependency on the abuser also prevents women from seeking help. HRW said that in no case it examined could it confirm that maintenance was paid to the victim, even if ordered by the court.
Finally, HRW asserted that police monitoring falls short. In some cases examined by the group, police refused to respond even when women reported violations of protection orders.
It also found cases in which police or school registries revealed to an abuser the location of a victim’s shelter.
HRW and the U.S. State Department detailed reports of women killed or severely injured in Turkey in the past couple years after having sought a protection order against the perpetrator. In some cases the order had been denied by the court, while in others, it was in effect but not adequately enforced.
In 2009, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey had failed to fulfill its obligation to protect Nahide Opuz and her mother from domestic violence inflicted by Opuz’s husband, despite their complaints to authorities. The Court observed that “the overall unresponsiveness of the judicial system and impunity enjoyed by the aggressors…indicated that there was insufficient commitment to take appropriate action to address domestic violence.”
The independent news outlet BIANET
counted at least 24 women killed in 2012 who had demanded protection from the authorities.
The Turkish Government provides a 24-hour hotline for women and children with the aim of providing those victimized by violence with information services in psychological, legal, and economic areas.
The Government also conducts outreach and awareness raising campaigns to combat domestic violence, and it funds shelters for women.
A Government regulation stipulates that there must be at least one shelter in every city with more than 50,000 inhabitants.
HRW found at least 166 cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants with no shelters.
It also noted inadequate resources and capacity in existing shelters, and that they are generally unable to accommodate women with physical or mental disabilities. Also, Government-funded shelters turn away women without official papers indicating legal status in Turkey.
A representative of Amnesty International asserted in 2011 that the group has lobbied Turkey for years to improve its standard on shelters to “little avail.”
The 2010 NGO Shadow Report to the CEDAW noted that while the number of shelters for victims of domestic violence has increased, Turkey is failing to meet its own regulations on the number required.
Similarly, the CEDAW committee noted in its 2010 concluding remarks on Turkey, the limited number of shelters, and it expressed its concerns about the lack of proper facilities and resources for the existing ones.
In 2008, 42% of Turkish women have been subjected to physical or sexual domestic violence in their lifetime, and about 14% have faced it in the 12 months prior to the study.42% have been subjected to physical or sexual domestic violence. The lifetime prevalence rate for physical domestic violence in Northern Anatolia is more than half, with the majority of cases reported to be “severe.”
While about half of low income women in Turkey reported having faced physical or sexual domestic violence, the rate for high-income women is also high compared to OECD averages, at nearly three in ten.
The study also found that 92% of women who report suffering from domestic violence do not report it to any official authority or NGO.
Moreover, about one in two women in the study agreed with the statement that a wife should obey her husband, and 14% agreed that a man may beat his wife.
Sexual assault and rape
are criminalized under the Penal Code (2004) with penalties ranging from two to seven years’ imprisonment for assault, and seven to twelve years if the violation included penetration. The penalty is increased by a half in the case of aggravating circumstances, such as use of arms or participation of more than one person in the offense.
The reform of the Penal Code in 2004 led to the criminalization of marital rape for the first time in Turkey, under Article 102.
The new Penal Code eliminated mention of chastity, morality, shame, and public customs from definitions of crimes against women. It removed previously existing discrimination against non-virgin victims and the notion of “consent of the child” to sexual abuse. Also, provisions legitimizing rape and abduction in cases in which the perpetrator marries the victim were abolished.
The age of consent to sexual activities in Turkey is 15 years-old. Statutory rape is punishable by six months’ to two years’ imprisonment.
The sentence is increased if the perpetrator is more than five years older than the victim or is the victim’s ascendant or guardian.
The Government provides services to victims and runs awareness raising campaigns to combat violence against women.
However, rape may be underreported to authorities. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2012 Human Rights Report on Turkey, victims often waited days or weeks to report sexual assault to authorities due to embarrassment or fear of reprisals.
The National Study on Violence against Women (2008) found that approximately 3% of Turkish women have faced sexual violence by someone other than a husband or partner since the age of 15, and 7% were sexually abused as a child below the age of 15.
15% of survey respondents reported facing sexual violence by a husband or partner in her lifetime, and 7% in the 12 months prior to the survey.
The Penal Code of 2004 criminalizes sexual harassment
under Article 105. The penalty ranges from a fine plus three months to two years imprisonment, which may be increased by one half if it occurred in the workplace of by a public official.
The Labour Code of 2003 also criminalizes sexual harassment at the workplace.
Women’s rights activists and news reports indicate inadequate enforcement of the law.
A 2013 report in Al-Monitor
details sexual harassment faced by female college students in police custody, following their participation in an environment protest.
There were 161 cases of sexual harassment in 2013, where the victim was female.
In August, 2013, the Ministry of Family and Social Policies announced the establishment of its 2012–15 Action Plan to Combat Violence Against Women.
No statistics are available on the prevalence of female genital mutilation
(FGM) in Turkey, though it does not appear to be a common practice. While FGM is found in some Kurdish communities in other countries, it is reportedly not practiced among the Kurds of Turkey, with the possible exception of some communities along the border with Iran.
In 2012, Turkey became the first country to ratify the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence and Domestic Violence against Women, which criminalizes FGM, among other forms of violence against women.
So-called “honour killings
” have been reported in Turkey. They particularly affect families in the rural Southeast and urban migrants from that area.
The Penal Code of 2004, under Article 82, removed previous sentence reductions for murder in the name of custom, and now honour killing is criminalized with life imprisonment. According to an expert paper published by the UN, there have been a few examples of Turkey enforcing the law by issuing life prison sentences for those convicted of an honour killing.
However, there are reports that strategies to avoid criminal prosecution for the crime include designating a young male relative to perform the killing (juvenile offenders may receive reduced sentences) or pressure girls into committing suicide.
The Penal Code maintains the clause (Article 29) that sentences may be reduced if the murder was committed under the influence of anger, severe pain, or incitement following a wrongful instigation. However, according to the CEDAW report, this provision is not intended to apply to honour killings: “It was explained in the article’s justification that family members, relatives and others who have murdered a woman victimized by sexual assault cannot avail themselves of reduction of sentence on the grounds of wrongful instigation and that all wrongful acts do not necessarily constitute wrongful instigation.”
Despite this Government’s efforts, honour killings continue to occur in Turkey. In 2006 the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women reported on the prevalence of the practice in eastern and southeastern Turkey, noting, “There are reasonable grounds to assume that some of the recorded suicide cases are indeed disguised murders. In other cases, family members appear to have instigated the suicide.”
In 2006, a Parliamentary Committee dedicated to investigating the issue of honour killings found an average of more than four such murders per week over the prior five years.
19 honour killings were officially reported in the first three-quarters of 2012.
is criminalized and punishable with eight to 12 years’ imprisonment.
In 2006, in line with international standards, Turkey added the expression, “forcing to prostitution” to its definition of human trafficking.
According to the U.S. State Department, sex trafficking, forced prostitution, and forced labour of women continue to occur in Turkey, and while the Government has made efforts to prosecute trafficking offenders, the convicts were sometimes given lenient sentences for lesser crimes. Some shelters for victims closed due to lack of funding.
According to the Turkey’s 2008 report to CEDAW, family planning methods are known by almost all married women and men.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for women to have at least three children and asserted that birth control is advocated by those who want to weaken Turkey.
Under the Population Planning Law (1983),
may be performed on demand of the pregnant woman within her first ten weeks of pregnancy. Thereafter, the performance of an abortion is permitted to save the life or preserve the health of the woman and in cases of foetal impairment. The law requires a married woman to obtain her husband’s consent to the abortion, but the requirement may be waived if the woman’s life is in immediate danger.
Another condition for an abortion is that it be carried out under the supervision of a gynecologist. According to a UN report, this factor makes it difficult for rural women to obtain abortions, because medical specialists of that kind may be scarce or non-existent in their region.
Until 1999, contraceptive
means were delivered free of charge to healthcare institutions. The 2008 CEDAW report acknowledged that there may be problems of access to contraceptives for women of little means.
 U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 35  Penal Code (2004); Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 20  Law 4320 on the Protection of the Family; Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 15  Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 15  Law number 6248, the Law to Protect Family and Prevent Violence against Women, available in English at http://www.stopvaw.org /uploads/law_to_protect_family_and_prevent_violence_against_women.doc; Arsu and Bilefsky (2012); Meline (2011)  http://www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_l205403030_text  http://www.todayszaman.com/news-273913-parliament-passes-violence-against-women-bill-on-march-8.html  Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 15  Stop Violence against Women Website  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 35  Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 25  Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 28  Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 25  Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 27  Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 39  Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 44  Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 1-2, 18, 39 (case of Fatma Babatli, killed by her husband in 2008, and injury cases of “Selvi T.” and “Zelal K.”); U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 35 (case of Gulsah Akturk, killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2012); see also Bilefsky and Arsu (2012) (case of Arzu Yildirim, killed by her boyfriend in 2011, reportedly after filing for legal protection more than ten times)  Interights (n.d.); European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) 33401/02  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 35  CEDAW (2008) p. 14  CEDAW (2008) p. 12-17  Law on Municipalities, Article 14; Federation of Women Associations of Turkey (2010) p. 2  Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 43  Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 45-46  Eissenstat (2011)  Federation of Women Associations of Turkey (2010) p. 2  CEDAW (2010) p. 5  ICON-Institut Public Sector Gmbh, Hacettepe University Institute of Population Studies, and BNB Consulting Ltd Co. (2009) p. 7-8; see also Hurriyet Daily News (2011)  ICON-Institut Public Sector Gmbh, Hacettepe University Institute of Population Studies, and BNB Consulting Ltd Co. (2009) p. 11; Arsu and Bilefsky (2012)  ICON-Institut Public Sector Gmbh, Hacettepe University Institute of Population Studies, and BNB Consulting Ltd Co. (2009) p. 23  ICON-Institut Public Sector Gmbh, Hacettepe University Institute of Population Studies, and BNB Consulting Ltd Co. (2009) p. 16  Penal Code (2004), Article 102  Penal Code (2004), Article 102(2) ; Ilkkaracan (n.d.) p. 8  Ilkkaracan (n.d.) p. 7-8  Penal Code (2004), Article 104  CEDAW (2008) p. 11; Penal Code (2004), Article 104  CEDAW (2008) p. 17  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 34  ICON-Institut Public Sector Gmbh, Hacettepe University Institute of Population Studies, and BNB Consulting Ltd Co. (2009) p. 14  ICON-Institut Public Sector Gmbh, Hacettepe University Institute of Population Studies, and BNB Consulting Ltd Co. (2009) p. 23  Penal Code (2004), Article 105; see also CEDAW (2008) p. 9-10  Labour Code (2003), Article 24, available in English: http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/SERIAL/64083/63017/F1027431766 /TUR64083.PDF; Ilkkaracan (n.d.) p. 8  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 36; Neel (2013); Tremblay (2013)  Tremblay (2013)  BIANET. http://www.bianet.org/english/gender/134394-bianet-is-monitoring-male-violence (accessed 05/05/2014)  Freedom House (2013)  Kurdish Media (2008)  Amnesty International (2012)  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 36  Ilkkaracan and Amado (2008) p. 12  U.S. Department of State (2013) p.36  CEDAW (2008) p. 10  Ertürk (2007) p. 2  Economist (2007)  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 36  CEDAW (2008) p. 22  U.S. Department of State (2013b) p. 368  CEDAW (2008) p. 65  Goksel (2011)  Law Number 2827, sections 5 and 6, and Ordinance No. 83/7395 of 14 November 1983  United Nations (n.d.) p. 141  United Nations (n.d.) p. 141  CEDAW (2008) p. 65