THE NEW LAW ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN TURKEY/ An Account of Lobbying and Advocacy
por by Women for Women's Human Rights (WWHR) / Enlace al texto en inglés de la nueva ley


Federation of Turkish Women's Association
Contacto: Mrs.Gülten DAS - President
Küçükesat, Akay Caddesi 15/2 - 06660 Ankara, Turquía - Tf: 417 26 04
Foundation for the Support of Women's Work
Contacto: Mrs. Tulu Ulgen
Galipdede Cad. 149/4 - 80030 Mueyyetzade - Beyoglu, Turquía - Tf: 90212/249 07 00 - Fax: 90212/249 15 08
E-mail: kedv@turk.net
Actividades: enfocadas a que las mujeres de bajo poder adquisitivo sean económicamente activas. Igualmente trabajan por mejorar la calidad de sus vidas y la de las comunidades en las que viven.

Women for Women's Human Rights (WWHR)
Coordinadora: Pinar Ilkkaracan
Kadinin Insan Haklari Projesi (KIHP)
Inonu Caddesi, 37/6 Saadet Apt.
Gumussuyu, 80090 Istanbul-TURKEY
Tel.: (90) 212 251 0029
Tel./Fax: (90) 212 251 0065
e-mail: wwhrist@superonline.org

Reforma del Código Civil
El 1 de enero del 2002 entró en vigor la reforma del código civil. El código civil de 1926 fue progresista para su época pero necesitaba una revisión urgente. Con la nueva reforma el hombre deja de ser legalmente el jefe, la mujer puede trabajar sin autorización del marido y participar en pie de igualdad entodas las cuestiones concernentes a la esfera privada como el lugar de residencia o tipo de educación de los hijos.Se eliminan las diferencias como las relativas a los derechos de herencia entre hijos nacidos dentro y fuera del matrimonio. La edad mínima para casarse se eleva a los 18 -hasta ahora era 15 para las mujeres- . Hay reparto de bienes en el matrimonio, hasta ahora se casaban con separación de bienes.

Negativo: En Turquía existe el "crimen de honor". El nuevo código no señala nada sobre este punto

Otro texto de WWRW:

Greetings from all of us at Women for Women's Human Rights (WWHR), an autonomous women's NGO in Turkey.

At WWHR, we aim to facilitate the empowerment of women and women's rights organizations by documenting laws and practices which promote or constrain women's rights, raising public consciousness concerning violations of these rights, increasing legal literacy, improving information exchange and solidarity between groups and individuals through active networking and outreach programs, and influencing government and other public bodies in the area of policy and legal change on the national and international levels.

Violence against women has been one of our primary areas of work. We have addressed the issue through a number of activities. In January 1998 a new law on domestic violence was approved by the Turkish Parliament. Under the new law, any member of a family subject to domestic violence can file a court case for what is known as a "protection order" against the perpetrator of the violence.

The enactment of the law required years of extensive lobbying and advocacy by women's groups and activists on all fronts including the general public, policy-makers and parliamentarians, as well as judges. Close to two decades of activism on domestic violence, which was mainly led by the only two autonomous women's shelters in Turkey, namely the Purple Roof Foundation and the Women's Solidarity Foundation, was critical in putting the issue of domestic violence on the public agenda.

WWHR joined these efforts in facilitating the extension of the momentum into the legal arena. When our group was founded in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1993, we started lobbying for changes to the domestic violence legislation.  The first step taken in this direction was the raising of awareness of the "protection order" as an effective legal mechanism for addressing the problem of domestic violence. This took the form of a publication entitled 'Myth of a Warm Home: Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse in the Family', which devoted a whole chapter to the protection order, its importance for women and children, how the legislation should be changed, what needed to be done to enforce the law, and what the new
law should entail.

Another step was the production of a video documentary entitled "It's Time to Say No!", which revealed not only the extent to which women are subjected to violence in the family, but also the barriers that confront them in their environment, in police stations or in the courts when they attempt to take legal action against it. The film was produced in order to enhance public awareness and lobbying efforts through communication by visual means, which can have a particularly powerful effect in exposing
human rights violations in taboo areas such as domestic violence. The film also highlighted the proposed strategies of women who had experienced domestic violence, which in each case included proposals for legal changes.

Parallel to the wide-spread dissemination of the book and the film across the country, the group initiated a phase of concentrated, focused lobbying, giving interviews to the media, writing articles for popular
women's journals and magazines and sharing the information with other women's groups, parliamentarians, and the General Directorate on the Status and Problems of Women.

Following these efforts, in early 1996 we were contacted by the General Directorate on the Status and Problems of Women, which comes under the State Minister with Special Responsibility for Women's Issues. At that time, the Directorate's efforts were focused on an amendment of the criminal code on domestic violence, which would entail an increase in the punishment given to the perpetrator of violence in the family. This revision had repeatedly failed to receive the approval of the Justice Commission; and the Directorate was interested in consulting with our group about other legal mechanisms such as protection orders, of which they had become aware after reading our book and watching our film.

We explained our perspective: In the case of domestic violence, an amendment of the criminal code to increase the punishment for the perpetrator of violence did not provide women with the most effective
legal mechanism.  While the relevant clauses of the existing criminal code allow women exposed to domestic violence to take their partners to court, they entail criminal cases, which require relatively long procedures. During the course of this process, women encounter many obstacles: They are often faced with policemen who refuse to file their complaint or tell them to go home and make up with their partners; or with doctors, who either do not, or choose not to, recognize that a woman has been subjected to domestic violence, which prevents women from obtaining the medical report (from a government doctor)  needed to file a criminal charge. Women are also very often reluctant to file criminal charges due to various reasons, for example: They are afraid that the incarceration of their
partner will result in a loss of social status for the family; they do not wish to place their children in a situation where they will have to see  their father in jail; they are frightened that their partner will become
more violent before or after his imprisonment; they fear that the husband's family and their own community will apply pressure to them for having caused the imprisonment of the father; and they are very often worried that when their partner is in jail, they will be left without a source of income, especially if their family has only a single-earner.

We argued that a much better strategy would be not to increase the punishment but rather to introduce other laws, such as the protection order, which would provide women with other means of ending the violence to which they are subjected. The protection order, which would be under the civil code, would involve less complicated and much quicker legal proceedings resulting in the enforced separation of the perpetrator of violence from the family home for a certain period of time. In other words, it would facilitate what women who are subjected to domestic violence need the most: A cessation of the violence without them having to leave home. A protection order also allows for the enforcement of the spouse to continue to provide for his family during the time he is separated from the family home.

After the consultation, we were able to enlist the support of the Directorate in lobbying for a law on the protection order, and this marked the beginning of a fruitful cooperation between WWHR and our governmental counterpart. The Director in charge at the Directorate at that time was Ms. Narinc Ataman; and her personal interest in the matter, her feminist outlook and openness to cooperating with NGO's, was very much crucial in the establishment of a productive relationship with our government

In mid-1997 WWHR contacted all 21 members of the Parliamentary Justice Commission, which represents the first stage in the process of legislative changes. We wrote them a letter containing all the information about this law, sent them materials we had on the issue, including the book we had
written, pointing out the relevant chapter on the protection order, and asked for face-to-face appointments. In the meantime, we provided the Directorate with a list of countries which had a law on protection order on their statute books together with the texts of protection orders in these countries, which we had been collecting over the years. Throughout this period, we had the support of our friends in the media. There was extensive press coverage with invitations to television and radio programs.

Some members of the Justice Commission responded to our appeal and we discussed with them, via telephone calls, faxes, letters and personal meetings, the need to change the law. Most of them were consequently convinced of the importance of the protection order and agreed to lend their support for its passage through Parliament as a new law. Only some members of the Refah Party (the "Islamic" Welfare Party) refused, saying that this law was contrary to the unity of the family, i.e. against Islam.
We collaborated with the Directorate in informing these members that the protection order was also used in Malaysia, another predominantly Muslim country, to protect the unity of the family. The text of the protection order in Malaysia was sent to the Directorate to be distributed;  information which proved to be critical in enlisting their support as well.

Once the members of the Justice Commission had given their support to the draft law, we intensified our lobbying efforts, targeting those MP's who seemed to be sympathetic to its enactment. Fax campaigns to the MP's, the continuing support of our friends in the media and demonstrations by various autonomous women's groups proved to be very effective in pressurizing the parliament in favor of the law. The draft law was approved by Parliament in January 1998, much earlier than had been
expected. In February 1998, only a month after the draft law entered the statute book, it was applied for the first time in a domestic violence case in Ankara, which again received extensive media coverage.

Our efforts are now geared towards the wide-spread dissemination of information about this new law through our outreach activities such as the WWHR legal literacy and human rights training program, illustrated brochures and booklets.