Turkey: Panlýurfa declaration on violence against women

Human Rights Association of Panlýurfa

The following Declaration was drafted pursuant to a symposium organized in Panlýurfa by the Human Rights Association of Panlýurfa. The symposium took place on November 22nd and 23rd 2003. We, the co-authors of this Declaration, are deeply concerned about the recent developments at the United Nations regarding the language adopted within various documents regarding women’s rights. The efforts in questioning and undermining already accepted language of the Beijing Conference and Beijing Platform for Action calls for an immediate action by women’s (human) rights defenders.

I. Types of Violence Against Women

In the first segment participants presented papers on different types of violence against women, moderated by Handan Coþkun, a representative of Diyarbakýr Municipality Center for Research and Implementation for Women’s Problems (DIKASUM). Psychologist Nurhayat Kemerli discussed the ‘Physical and Psychological Types of Domestic Violence’; Leylâ Pervizat presented a paper on ‘Honor Killings’, and Vice President of Human Rights Association Reyhan Yalçýndað, Lawyer, talked about ‘Women in Armed Conflict and War, and State initiated Violence Against Women’.

II. International and National Prevention Mechanisms for Protection of Women’s Human Rights

Chairperson of Panlýurfa Bar Association, Ferda Güllüoðlu, moderated the segment entitled “International and National Protection Mechanisms for Women’s Human Rights.” In this segment, Hayriye Özdemir Ertekin from Ankara Bar Association presented a paper entitled “Women’s Rights in International Mechanisms”, Pehnaz Turan, President of the Foundation on Society and Law Researches (TOHAV), talked about “Women’s Rights in Law and Proposed Amendments to the Penal Code”, Zülal Erdoðan from the Women’s Commission of Diyarbakýr Bar Association presented a paper on “Legal Mechanisms for Victims of Domestic Violence and State Initiated Violence”.

III. Women’s Participation in Society, Economic, Political and Cultural Spheres of Life

Halime Güner from the Flying Broom moderated the segment on “Women’s Participation in Society, Economic, Political and Cultural Spheres of Life”. Board member of Women’s Department of DEHAP (Democratic People’s Party), Nilüfer Dumlu, presented a paper on “Politics and Women”, Elif Akgül, from Women’s Secretary of Teachers’ Union Headquarters (Eðitim-Sen) talked about “Work and Women”, Director of Ýlk-Der, Özden Sönmez, discussed “Women: Individual to Society”, and Representative of Directorate of Family Planning Association of Diyarbakýr Branch, Çaðlar Demirel, presented a paper titled “Holding women as the sole responsible party for the birth control is a form of violence against women”.

The following declaration is prepared by all the participants from inter alia, Ýstanbul, Ankara, ÞanlýUrfa, Siirt, Batman, and Diyarbakýr.

Violence against women is any act of gender based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in private and public life. Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development, and peace. Violence against women both violates and impairs and nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Therefore, forms of violence against women are listed as following, inter alia:

- Physical, sexual, economic, and psychological violence occurring in the family, battering, sexual abuse of female children, marital sexual abuse, and marital rape, forced marriages, forced marriages of victims of rape with the perpetrators, forced virginity test, all other harmful health practices in the family against women;

- Honor killings as forms of extra judicial executions;

- Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;

- Physical, sexual, and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State in the detention centers or elsewhere, inter alia rape, sexual harassment, and forced virginity test;

- Acts of violence against women in situations of armed conflict, in particular murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy;

- Forced sterilization, forced abortion, coercive/forced use of contraceptives, female infanticide, and prenatal selection;

- Banning the headscarves and forced use of certain clothing items.

Reminding that all forms of violence against women are violations of women’s human rights. We call upon the State to reaffirm its commitment to the Charter of the United Nations, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, to the International Covenant of Social, Cultural, and Economic Rights, and other international human rights instruments, in particular to the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Beijing Declaration, and the Beijing Platform of Action. State should ensure the full implementation of the human rights of women and of the girl child as inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and take effective action against violations o f these rights and freedoms and develop a holistic and multidisciplinary approach at all levels of implementation. State must condemn violence against women and refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination of as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of violence Against Women. Therefore, State must comply with the CEDAW, and make necessary changes. We ask the State to sign and notify the Rome Status of the International Criminal Court, and recognize that rape, sexual abuse, and forced prostitution are crimes against humanity in the non-conflict situations, and are crimes of war during the armed conflict situations. State should clarify and define what the sexual violence means according to the legal instruments, and work on this with the NGOs.

· The State must refrain from engaging in violence against women and exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those are perpetrated by the State or by private actors. Violence against women is a crime against humanity. These crimes should be investigated and punished due diligently. As in the latest honor killings cases of Kadriye Demirel and Sevgi Erez, the failure of the Justice system to investigate and punish the perpetrators of these kinds of crimes encourages the future cases and public.

Domestic violence is a form of torture and a violation of human rights. The process, purposes, and consequences of domestic violence and state inflicted torture are very similar. The victims of domestic violence and victims of torture are exposed to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, experience the same traumatic events. The fact that domestic violence is inflicted on the victim privately as opposed to officially such as in the cases of torture in detention does not diminish its atrociousness, and cannot be sanctioned in national and international law. Thus, we call upon the State to recognize domestic violence as a torture and to take the necessary steps including the amendment of the Penal.

Honor killings are forms of extra judicial executions. Turkey co-sponsored a resolution titled ‘Working Towards Elimination of Crimes Committed in the Name of Honor’ at the 57th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee. State should start implementing the resolution immediately in good faith. We call upon the State, and specifically Committee on the Preparation of the New Penal Code to make the amendments that crimes committed in the name of honor are violations of women’s human rights and a form of extra judicial execution, cannot be mitigated as a ‘unjust provocation’. In addition, we ask the State to continue to co-sponsor this resolution at the 59th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in the fall of 2004.

The inadequate number of women’s shelters in Turkey, currently 14, further perpetuates the problem of violence against women. For instance, although crimes committed in the name of honor widely exist in the southeastern and eastern regions of the country, there is NOT even one shelter in these regions. Thus, we call upon State to establish shelters throughout the whole country, and provide free legal, medical, and psychological aiding services to the all kinds of victims of violence against women as well as appropriate assistance to enable women to find a means of subsistence. The sustainability of these shelters can only be maintained with long term planning and financial support of local, regional, and central government participation.

Berdel[1], beþik kertmesi[2], polygamy, forced virginity testing, as violations of women’s fundamental human rights, must be addressed broadly and due diligently. Berdel and Beþik Kertmesi are violations of freedom of expression and opinion under the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. Thus, eradication efforts of Berdel should take note of this.

Sexual violence against the women, and rape in detention are forms of torture, as it was explicitly acknowledged in various mechanisms. Thus, we ask that legal punishment for rape in detention be increased by half.

We ask the State to implement measures and programs for the judiciary, law enforcement officers, police personnel, medical and social workers aimed at increasing the knowledge and understanding of the causes and consequences of violence against women to prevent and punish the perpetrators. State should create national local machineries to promote and establish cooperative relationship with branches of government and women’s organizations. Local governments should establish and promote centers for child rights, and women’s centers, and disabled centers.

15 years of armed conflict in the region lasted with torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment, summary and arbitrary executions, disappearances, arbitrary detentions, rape under detention, destruction of 3,688 villages and forcefully internally displacement of the villagers. All these crimes affected primarily women who lost their husbands, children, and brothers during the armed conflict. Peace must be achieved. Situation of lack of armed conflict must be transformed into more peaceful environment. Dispute in the region must be solved, and Kurdish issue must be resolved with democratic and peaceful means immediately. Internally displaced women, who are unable to adjust the city life, continue to experience serious problems as ‘outsiders.’ As soon as possible, women’s right to voluntary and safe return to their home of origin.

It is a fact that children are exposed to sexual abuse inside and outside home. The Ministry of Education should introduce education projects in schools addressing the risk of children being exposed to sexual abuse. In addition, education should be provided on the subject of gender in high schools.

The education of women on the subject of struggle against violence against women is crucially important. In this context, Women’s Education Academies whose purpose is the elimination of the problems that women face and consciousness raising should be formed by NGOs and women’s organizations.

Considering the way that the incidents of violence against women are published in the media encourage violence, publications affirming violence should be warned.

The bearing of the responsibility in family planning by women alone is a form of violence. In order to prevent this, partners should be educated together and importance should be given to women’s health. In a similar way, the hindering of women from practicing family planning by the pressure of the husband or family members is also a form of violence. Within the context of positive discrimination against women, spreading of health services and provisions of detailed information on family planning should be provided. The rendering sterile of women under the name of family planning, if without the consent, is a crime. Women should be informed in detail about the consequences of the method that will be applied.

Education should be provided to women who want to enter the political sphere and they should be supported. Within the context of positive discrimination against women, political parties should determine a “quota”. Women’s NGO’s should exert positive pressure on political parties for women to enter politics.

On the subject of women entering politics, women’s organizations and political parties should cooperate and develop methods to solve the inequalities faced by women.

In the sphere of employment, negative discrimination against women should be eliminated and all women should enjoy their right to be employed. With respect to contributing to economic development, women should be treated equally. In all occupations, all public and private organizations should be encouraged to employ a certain number of women. Women should be able to benefit directly from the social security programs. As a step in the way to eliminate economic and psychological violence against women, in order to include them in national accounts, women working at home and in the fields should be provided with insurance and their labor should be made visible. Considering the fact that employed women are subjected to various kinds of violence due to their female identity, in order to create women focused organizations within labor unions, mechanisms like women’s secretariat, women’s departments should be placed under the guarantee of regulations.

The ban on the headscarf is a serious violation of rights. In public life, in the sphere of education and in all spheres of life, the ban on the headscarf should be eliminated.

Reyhan Yalçýndað, Vice President of Human Rights Association, Lawyer
Handan Coþkun, representative of DÝKASUM
Nurhayat Kemerli, Psychologist
Leylâ Pervizat, Researcher
Ferda Güllüoðlu, Chairperson of Panlýurfa Bar Association
Hayriye Özdemir Ertekin, Lawyer from Ankara Bar Association
Pehnaz Turan, President of TOHAV, Lawyer
Zülal Erdoðan, Representative of Women Commission of Diyarbakýr Bar Association
Halime Güner, Representative of Flying Broom (Uçan Süpürge)
Nilüfer Dumlu, Representative of Women Department of DEHAP
Elif Akgül, Secretary Women of Eðitim-Sen
Özden Sönmez, Chairperson of Ýlk-Der
Çaðlar Demirel, Representative of Directorate of Family Planning Association of Diyarbakýr Branch
Gülay Koca, Chairperson of HRA of Panlýurfa Branch

[1] Berdel is the bartering of women between families to avoid paying dowry related expenses to each other.

[2] Besik Kertmesi is form of forced marriage. The daughter’s future husband-to-be decided by the father immediately after her birth. Often the price for a newly born daughter is discussed at length by bargaining fathers. As soon as she is old enough to marry, she is forced to do so by her father.