Since 1990, we have been fighting against male violence against women with feminist methods, and we, encouraged and empowered by our solidarity with women, work for an equal and free world where we are not exposed to violence. Solidarity we built in our solidarity center and shelter in 2022 provides us the lens to see both the impact of gender inequality on women’s lives and the dynamics of violence and shows us women’s will to continue their lives notwithstanding violence. On the other hand, women’s experiences give us the opportunity to observe how and to what extent the existing mechanisms for combating violence function in Turkey.
We contend that Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention in 2021 has led to a loss of an important ground in the fight against violence. The convention’s emphasis on gender equality and graduated definition of the steps to be taken in combatting violence are overtly wanting in Turkey’s current fight against male violence. The efforts to combat violence against women are not carried out with the aim of eliminating gender inequality and discrimination against women; hence, such work prevents the discrimination and violence women are subject to from being understood as a shared as well as unique experience that stems from their gender. The fact that these efforts lack such an approach and standard in service provision, reduces the work by some institutions to a personal trait or to an initiative.
The smear campaign and widely circulated misinformation about the Istanbul Convention often claim that the convention is contrary to family values. We have been expressing since day one that this claim aims to perpetuate gender roles, deepen gender inequality, prevent women’s emancipation, and protect men’s advantages within the patriarchal system. We see this approach in family-themed protests which aim at imposing an understanding of family where women are oppressed, as is the case in family-oriented social services, and fueling hostility against LGBTI+ community, as well as in efforts to define family in the constitution. These practices, policies, protests, and discourses attack gender equality under the guise of protecting family. These assaults, which seek to perpetuate social conditions through which women and LGBTI+s are discriminated against and exposed to violence, continue not only in Turkey and all over the world. Under these circumstances, we consider it our social duty to strive for gender equality and to stand up against discrimination.
Family-oriented policies have a multifaceted effect on women and make particularly women’s struggle to stay away from violence difficult. For instance, Family Courts give decisions without considering the violence against women and its impact on women and their children (if any), causing an important problem. Especially in issues of child custody and the visitation right, family courts make decisions by focusing on the paternal rights and considering neither the impact of ongoing violence on the child nor the best interest of the child. A judicial system that prioritizes the protection of the family and paternal rights hinders women and children’s from staying away from violence and its effects. In 2022, we went to courtrooms and witnessed the justice struggles that sometimes have lasted for years and built solidarity with women. We continue to work and struggle to reverse the ongoing injustice in family courts and criminal cases in women’s favor.
The combat against male violence cannot be considered independent of the struggle for equality that continues in all walks of life and of freedom of expression and association. In addition to the lawsuits for the closure of women’s organizations, in 2022 our freedom of assembly and association was restricted during the 8th of March Feminist Night March and on November 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The struggle against male violence in Turkey started in 1987 with the March for Solidarity against Battering. The freedom of assembly and association, apart from being a fundamental right for expressing our demands in public, is one of the most important tools for women to speak up against and fight the discrimination they are subjected to. We will not give up this right and our struggle in all areas of life.
This year, we kept up our feminist struggle against male violence with our solidarity we built with women in the shelter and the solidarity center as well as with our monitoring work and awareness raising activities. In this report, you will find comprehensive information and analysis regarding our methods of struggle along with what we have witnessed and experienced in our solidarity.
As is the case in previous years, our work was made possible only by the solidarity of Mor Çatı volunteers and friends. We achieve social transformation together, thanks to institutions and employees who have the will and experience of working with an approach that favors women. It was the feminist movement that made possible our achievements in the fight against male violence in Turkey as well as our struggle under challenging conditions that we describe in detail in what follows. We will continue our work with the strength of being a part of the feminist movement, which grows bigger every year in Turkey. Our hope is that this report will contribute to the fight against violence against women in Turkey.