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Turkey takes ground-breaking step to prevent violence against women

Last Update 20.08.2014

The Council of Europe's Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence is in effect as of August.

An agreement reached three years ago in Istanbul to prevent violence against women went into effect this month in Turkey and 13 other countries.

Also known as Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe's Convention includes preventive measures that are considered ground-breaking by experts because of heavy responsibilities the report puts on the governments.

Turkey became the first country to approve the convention in its parliament in 2012. With its Law to Protect Family and Prevent Violence Against Women, Turkey committed itself to protecting women, children, and family members of victims of domestic violence and providing services such as shelters, financial aid, and psychological and legal guidance.

In addition to Turkey, other countries that signed the agreement include Albania, Andorra, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, France, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Spain and Sweden.

One in three women older than 15 in Europe has become a victim of violence, according to a report by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency.

violence on women

About 500,000 women within the borders of the EU have suffered from female circumcision, while an additional 180,000 are at risk in countries such as the UK, Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium, Amnesty International reported.

In Turkey, 189 women were murdered last year, and 129 were killed in the first six months of 2014.

According to Gulsun Bilgehan, the former president of the Council of Europe's Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, the binding nature of the convention is the reason behind its slow implementation.

Bilgehan said the convention accepts no justification for violence.

One of the most compelling articles of the convention is the one that is related to compensation. Governments across Europe are called upon to divert a considerable amount of money to women who have to divorce due to violence and start a new life. Another compulsory article of the convention provides at-risk women with asylum status.

"In European countries there are too many foreign workers. If the husband is deported as a result of committing violence, the government has to approve his wife's desire to stay. Germany didn't approve the convention due to the drawbacks on that issue. France and Sweden approved on condition," Bilgehan told SES Türkiye.

Amnesty International's director of campaigns and advocacy in Turkey, Ruhat Sena Aksener, said if a country does not provide an effective protection, the victims can apply for protection in another member country.

"That's why we recommend governments to develop a refugee system sensitive to the gender issue," Aksener told SES Türkiye.

Aksener also highlighted the obligation for governments to train specialists who will work with the victims.

"Moreover the governments have to provide 24-7 emergency lines free of charge, physical and psychological support services and sexual violence application centres for the victims," she added.

The convention also requires an international control mechanism that enables inspectors to pay regular visits to the member countries.

According to Feride Acar, a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and a professor of political science at Middle East Technical University, the convention forces the governments to take necessary rules and regulations and make necessary amendments in the existence laws to bring the laws in line with the convention.

"In Turkey in order to bring the existing laws in line with the convention there is still a long way to go," Acar told SES Türkiye.

The convention was first announced in 2011 and agreed upon by 47 Council of Europe member countries.

Zeynep Cermen, Ses Türkiye

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