As a disturbing surge in violence against women is sweeping across Mersin, a city in southern Turkey, critics argue that recent legal changes are emboldening the perpetrators, with the government policies coming under scrutiny. Sebahat Gençtarih, a lawyer from the Mimoza Women’s Association, suggests that the Turkish government’s misogynistic rhetoric and policies are fuelling this dangerous trend.
The We Will Stop Femicide Platform (KCDP), a prominent women’s rights organisation in Turkey, reported that 25 women were murdered and nine died under suspicious circumstances in July alone. In Mersin, data from the Mimoza Women’s Association shows that from January to July 2023, five women were murdered and four women died under suspicious circumstances.
Gençtarih expressed deep concern that a recent law passed by the votes of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will put women’s lives at risk. This law allows prisoners, including those convicted of child and women abuse or murder, to be released from prison. “This law is a clear threat to women’s safety,” she warned.
Turkey’s new sentences enforcement law, effective from 31 July 2023, is criticised for allowing the release of dangerous criminals while excluding political prisoners.
Although it was the first country to ratify it in 2012, Turkey had withdrawn from the Istanbul Convention, a treaty of the Council of Europe that aims to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence, in 2021, sparking protests and criticism.
Gençtarih also pointed to the rise in drug abuse and individual armament in the city as contributing factors to the increase in violence against women. She suggested that men under the influence of drugs and those who possess firearms are more likely to inflict harm on women.
Gençtarih criticised the court’s role in the increasing violence against women, arguing that the court’s decisions, which often favour men, put women at risk. “We need more women in the judiciary to ensure fairer decisions in cases involving violence against women,” she urged.