The following feminist organizations attended the meeting held in Ankara on November 1-3, 2023, as part of the joint project titled “Increasing the Effectiveness of Family Courts: Better Protection of the Rights of Family Members”, which is co-financed by the European Union and the Council of Europe and in which the Turkish Justice Academy is a partner. First of all, we object to the fact that women’s organizations that have been supporting women for many years and have been involved in law-making processes were not actively included in the project as interlocutors, including in the planning of the meeting, formulation of project questions & outputs and selection of the meeting speakers.
It is a concerning issue that women’s organizations that have first-hand information about the problems experienced in divorce, alimony and custody cases and in the implementation of the Law no. 6284 are not included as active participants. The consequences of this glaring omission were keenly apparent in the presentations and discussions at the meeting, especially in the approaches to the causes of male violence. It is not possible to conduct such a discussion without addressing the inequality that arises from women being oppressed and discriminated against because of their gender. It is unthinkable to improve the laws and practices unless the connection between divorce, alimony and custody and violence and women’s invisible labor is highlighted. Many evidence-based studies and our experiences with women themselves show that gender inequality is the main obstacle for women accessing their political, civil, social and economic rights. Women become impoverished in this unequal system; and regardless of this fact, women’s right to alimony has been the subject of a debate and the proposed legal changes conceived in response do not strengthen women’s rights, but instead eliminate their current gains.
The Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe Convention, affirms that violence against women arises from gender inequality and obliges the states and European institutions to take all measures to eliminate this inequality. Ignoring this principle in a project with a budget of 2,223,000 Euros that has been carried out for 2 years with the financial support of the Council of Europe and the European Union, prepared in collaboration with the same Turkish state that withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, creates serious and justifiable doubts with regards to the purpose and function of the project.
As women’s organizations that fight against the injustices experienced by women, build solidarity with them, and learn from their knowledge and experiences, we attest that women often face exclusionary and unequal treatment in Family Courts, that their testimonies are questioned, and that trial processes often uproot women’s lives rather than that of the perpetrator. In the meeting, we saw that Family Court judges had similar concerns to ours. However, high-level bureaucrats acting out of political motives unfortunately displayed a problematic attitude towards improving women’s rights and preventing inequality. Taking these facts into consideration, it is evident that many amendments discussed within the scope of this project were proposed in utter disregard of our experiences as women’s organizations and experts in the field.
For all these reasons, we strongly object to this project, which was held without the active and qualified participation of women’s organizations that have been working in the field to ensure gender equality in Turkey for many years. A “roadmap” that attempts to create changes in women’s fundamental rights and freedoms by excluding women’s experiences and women’s organizations will not serve the goal of “protecting women’s rights” or gender equality.
European Women’s Lobby Turkey Coordination
Women’s Solidarity Foundation
Women for Women’s Human Rights Association
Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation