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Domestic violence in Turkey
1.       Roswitha
4132 posts
 27 Jan 2009 Tue 09:42 pm

For more than 20 years, Mor Çatý (the Purple Roof Foundation) has been at the forefront of the fight against domestic violence in Turkey.

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Since 2005, Mor Çatý had run a shelter in Beyoðlu -- the only one operated by a civil society organization -- where women who had fled abusive homes could settle with their children and get the legal, psychological and medical support they needed to rebuild their shattered lives. The foundation had signed a protocol with the Beyoðlu District Administration (kaymakamlýk), which provided financial support for salaries and utilities using money from the World Bank Social Risk Mitigation Project.

Psychologists, doctors and lawyers -- some of them volunteers -- were involved in the residents’ care, while pedagogues helped children overcome the trauma they had experienced. The women’s three-month stay could be extended if they needed more time to gather strength and learn to survive independently.

Sadly, when World Bank funding came to an end, local authorities refused to provide further financial backing, thus making it impossible for Mor Çatý to continue running the shelter. The decision caused an outcry among women’s rights activists, who demonstrated in front of Parliament, but their entreaties fell on deaf ears.

As of Dec. 31, management of the shelter was transferred to the Social Services and Child Protection Agency (SHÇEK), but Mor Çatý activists fear that it could eventually be closed down.

In 2006, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan issued a wide-ranging directive mobilizing all state institutions to combat family violence and honor killings. One important item was, however, missing from the prime ministerial order: an adequate budget.

According to a law adopted in 2004, municipalities with a population over 50,000 are required to open a shelter, but many local authorities invoke money constraints to wiggle out of their obligations. It is somewhat ironic that in a country so focused on defense, protecting women from an enemy within their own families is simply not seen as a priority. Is it because politicians, deep down, still believe that a woman’s place is in her home, irrespective of the living conditions she faces there?

There has of course been improvement, and awareness of the problem has increased. According to the State Ministry for Women and Family Affairs, there were 44 shelters across Turkey in March 2008, 23 of them run by the SHÇEK, which only operated eight shelters five years earlier. But when you know that most shelters have less than 20 beds, it is evident that supply does not meet demand.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a global report on violence against women released in October 2006, estimated there should be a minimum of one shelter bed per 10,000 residents, and one per 7,500 for optimum protection. Ýstanbul should therefore have somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 beds, and Turkey a minimum of 7,100.

Women’s rights activists also point out that opening shelters is one thing; providing the necessary services to empower women, with personnel trained to deal sensitively with victims of abuse, is quite another.

The battle against domestic violence will not be won overnight, nor is it one that the government is expected to fight on its own. Social issues such as domestic abuse can only be addressed through a multipronged approach that requires the cooperation of authorities, of civil society activists and even of the private sector.

Establishing fruitful dialogue with civil society organizations should be one of the main planks of the authorities’ efforts to curb violence. Yet they often fail to do so. Mor Çatý has, for years, been making a crucial contribution to the fight against domestic violence. Pushing it aside, instead of making use of its extensive experience in this field, therefore seems particularly counterproductive.



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