Protection of Family and Prevention of Violence against Women

Mehmet Ferden ÇARIKÇI 04.11.2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great honour to be with you and the distinguished speakers of this special

I am pleased to be a keen supporter of the White Ribbon Campaign, which is a bold and noble initiative to end the archaic and humiliating practice of violence against women.
Today, violence against women stands before us as one of the top global challenges. This phenomenon has its roots deep in historic and traditional malpractices. To greater or lesser extent, no society is immune to this inhumane and degrading fact.
With all its forms, violence contaminates women's lives with fear and insecurity and hinders the full enjoyment of their fundamental rights and freedoms. Domestic violence, in particular, is a phenomenon which is hard to be defined in terms of its scale, for being left hidden and unreported due to the understanding of keeping the incidents as a matter of family privacy. Obviously this complicates addressing the problem.

Today, I would like to brief you about our strife against this primitive malpractice through an important guideline, The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which is also known as the Istanbul Convention.

The Istanbul Convention, as the third regional convention after the Inter-American Convention and the 2003 Protocol to the African Charter, builds on the previous landmark developments and moves the international legal framework a step further by establishing a legally-binding definition of violence against women as “a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women”.
In addition to this, the Istanbul Convention introduces a committee of experts to oversee its implementation, which did not exist in the previous regional instruments.
Recently, the Istanbul Convention has reached the necessary number of ten ratifications to enter into force and became effective on 1 August 2014.

The İstanbul Convention is not only open to the member states of the Council of Europe, but all UN member states as well. With this feature, and its content, the Convention is the most far-reaching international treaty to tackle this serious violation of human rights.

Preventing violence, protecting victims and prosecuting the perpetrators are the corner-stones of the convention. It also seeks to change the hearts and minds of individuals by calling on all members of society, in particular men and boys, to change their attitudes.

It recognizes violence against women as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination. This means that States could be responsible if they do not respond adequately to such violence. Moreover, offences, such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage, stalking, forced abortion and forced sterilization are criminalized and states are obliged to incorporate these serious offences into their legal systems.
It calls for the involvement of all relevant state agencies and services so that violence against women and domestic violence are tackled in a coordinated way. This means that agencies and NGOs should not act alone, but work out protocols for co-operation.

The convention covers all women and girls, from any background, regardless of their age, race, religion, social origin, migrant status or sexual orientation. The convention recognizes that there are groups of women and girls that are often at greater risk of experiencing violence, and states need to ensure that their specific needs are taken into account. States are also encouraged to apply the convention to other victims of domestic violence, such as men, boys and the elderly.

Given these groundbreaking features of the Istanbul Convention, On 14 October, the World Future Council, Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Women awarded the Istanbul Convention with its newly created Vision Award. Presented as part of the World Future Policy Award 2014, this award honours the pioneering nature of the Istanbul Convention and the vision it carries for women in Europe and beyond to lead a life free of violence.

Turkey has the honour to be the first country to sign and ratify the istanbul Convention. As such, Turkey played an active and leading role for the signing and ratification of the Convention by other countries.

Moreover, Turkey also organized holistic and comprehensive activities on combating violence against women based on the understanding of “zero tolerance towards violence” for long years. For instance, the Ministry of Family and Social Policies held an international meeting on “Progress in Women’s Human Rights in the Third Year of the istanbul Convention” last year in November in istanbul with the support of Council of Europe, European Commission and UN WOMEN.

Why is İstanbul Convention this important for Turkey? This question has a short and honest answer: Turkey is not immune to violence against women. Recent statistics indicate that reported cases of violence against women in Turkey are increasing in the last three years. Yet, we are not pessimistic. I can say that this trend indicates a healthy rise in awareness on violence against women. In other words, what has long been kept as a matter of ‘family privacy’ is now being revealed as a clear human rights violation. This gives us a better picture of the problem and we are anticipating a gradual decrease in the number of cases, as the problem is duly addressed.

Another indication of the statistics is that more violence cases are being reported in the urban areas in comparison to the rural areas. This fact strengthens the correlation between awareness level and reporting ratio.
As a matter of fact, this correlation also goes for the European Union countries. A recent survey done by the European Union Agency of Fundamental Rights indicates the relation between the reporting ratio of violence against women and overall development level and particularly the empowerment of women. This survey also tells us that no society is immune to this human rights abuse and every Government has the obligation to take concrete steps in this field.

Among the 47 members of the Council of Europe, 36 member states have signed and 15 of them have ratified the Convention. When we look at the situation of EU member states, we see that 21 have signed and 7 have ratified. We expect these numbers to increase rapidly. It is also our wish to see the Convention to be signed and ratified at the global scale. At this point, I would like to express my sincere hope to see Switzerland ratifying this powerful convention, which it signed on September 11th, 2013.

In the light of the İstanbul Convention, Turkey launched a multi faceted campaign, at the domestic level.

Legislative activities are the primary field of our works in combating violence against women. In this respect, the whole legislation in Turkey has been forged into a nature which observes the principle of equality of men and women and promotes zero tolerance towards violence against women.

One of the most important steps of this endeavor is the “Law on the Protection of Family and Prevention of Violence against Women”. In the preparation of the law, different stakeholders, namely NGOs, Public Prosecutors, Family Court Judges and the heads of Bars were taken onboard.

This Law has been prepared in line with the istanbul Convention. For instance, the Law introduced detailed preventive and protective measures against the perpetrator and potential perpetrator. Local authorities and law enforcement officials, other than the family court judge, were also entitled to rule preventive orders.

Likewise, the Law introduced the provision of support services and the establishment of “Violence Prevention and Monitoring Centers”. Related to this measure, the Law provided for confidentiality and security of the victim and it is specified that where necessary, identity information of the victim and other family members will be under protection.

It is our firm belief that, achieving gender equality and eliminating all forms of violence against women requires a multilateral, long-term and decisive struggle based on an integrated approach by all relevant stakeholders. Efforts have to be deployed in all realms, such as law enforcement, justice, health, social services and labor by the state, NGOs, media and the private sector altogether. In fact, this idea is not new. The Istanbul Convention prescribes that all policies must be formulated with the effective cooperation of all relevant parties.

Hence, legal measures require strict implementation based on a strong network of institutions. To this aim, the “National Action Plan on Combating Violence against Women 2012-2015” is under implementation.

The Action Plan aimed improvements in five basic fields including legal regulations, awareness raising and change of mindset, empowerment of women and delivery of protective services and lastly the cooperation between the institutions and organizations.

Once the mechanism was set, it was a necessity to monitor its functioning. Besides, as is stipulated by the Istanbul Convention, the State parties committed themselves to collecting statistical data relating to the acts of violence and conducting research on the issue. Therefore, a database is built to collect and update data on all forms of violence against women, step up the data collection capacity and keep track of violence against women; and thereby formulate knowledge-based policies.

After collecting the preliminary data and assessment of the needs, the next step would be ‘the action’. Naturally first thing to do was to relieve the pain of the victims. In this respect, the victim-oriented work would be as crucial as eliminating the overall practice of violence against women.

For this aim, shelters are being set up for temporarily accommodating the women victims of violence and those under risk, along with their children, if any. The shelters are mainly state-run but there are also some shelters operated by nongovernmental organizations and municipalities. Currently, a total of 130 shelters are available nationwide; 93 of which are public institutions.

In addition to the shelters provided, Violence Prevention and Monitoring Centers were set up in 14 provinces. These are centers of reference for women who are exposed to or under risk of violence. They also run monitoring activities round the clock seven days a week and offer the services of consultancy and guidance to women in need.
Except for the shelters and the Violence Prevention and Monitoring Centers, we have 25 first-step stations available.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I tried to introduce you our steps towards our aim to build up a good practice. Our goal is not an easy one. However, this should not be a pretext to be pessimistic, but a motive for continuing and determined effort.

As I mentioned by way of introduction, violence against women is an archaic and degrading phenomenon. What we need to always keep in mind is; it is not only degrading to women, but to men as well. Besides, given the central role of women in the education of individuals within the family and healthy individuals’ key importance in building healthy societies, it is an obligation to empower women and girls for the sake of our societies. For these reasons, it is a duty for us all to spare no effort to eradicate the malpractice of violence against women. Our cause, and the White Ribbon and ‘He for She’ Campaigns as parts of this cause, are noble and more relevant than ever.

Thank you.


Sadık Arslan Ambassador

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