Coronavirus lockdown proving fatal for women in Turkey, after 21 killed in 20 days

According to a women's rights group, 21 women were killed in a 20-day period since March 11, when the government advised the country to stay at home to avoid spreading the virus


                            Coronavirus lockdown proving fatal for women in Turkey, after 21 killed in 20 days
A woman wearing a face mask walks down an empty shopping street in Istanbul, Turkey (Getty Images)

The lockdown and social distancing measures implemented to combat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have led to a rise in reports of domestic violence and abuse across the world. In Turkey, however, lockdown measures are proving fatal for some women as a women's rights group reported 29 deaths of women in March 2020.

France and Australia first reported a spike in domestic violence figures since the outbreak of COVID-19 and issue of stay-at-home orders. Research has shown that a forced domestic life and isolation only spurs domestic violence within the household, considering factors like financial stability and unemployment which are both rising concerns during the pandemic.

The deaths were reported by the We Will Stop Femicide Platform which according to their statement, "strives for stopping femicide and ensuring their protection from violence," and monitors all types of women's rights violations. The group says that many women who had contacted the group were scared to report violence by husbands or partners, which had grown under the domestic lockdown conditions.

According to the group, 29 women were killed by men in March this year, of those, 21 women were killed in a 20-day period since March 11, when the government advised the country to stay at home to avoid spreading the virus. Among the deaths, 18 women were killed at home (14 since the stay-at-home order), four at work, two while traveling, one in the field and two in the middle of the street. 

A woman covers her face after police fired tear gas during a demonstration marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, 2018, in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

The group's report came before Turkey's interior ministry reported that the country's femicide rate had decreased by 22% in the first quarter of the year compared to last year. Last month, the ministry reported that the femicide rate had decreased by 32% in the first two months of 2020 compared to last year. 

“Some of them have given up," the group reported. "Some have realized that the violence against women had increased, upon returning home following the closure of the universities. Women also had a hard time to file for injunction orders because the offenders are elderly or sick.”

Last week, Dilek Kaya was shot and killed by her military officer boyfriend at home in the eastern city of Diyarbakir after a heated argument. The same week, 46-year-old Hatice Kurt was shot and killed in the street in the Black Sea resort of Rize by her ex-husband Ali Riza Havuz, 61, for allegedly posting a picture of herself online. 

The We Will Stop Femicide Platform reported earlier that 474 women had been killed in Turkey last year. According to the group, 27 women were killed for apparent economic reasons while 114 women were killed either because they wanted a divorce or refused to reconcile or refused a friend request. Some 218 women were killed by their husbands, ex-husbands, partners or ex-partners, while 101 women were killed by their relatives.

A total of 185 women were shot with a gun, 101 women were stabbed to death, 29 women were beaten up to death, 27 women were assaulted to death, and six women were killed with chemical drugs in 2019.

Turkey, at one time, led the fight for women's equality. The secular civil code of 1926 gave Turkish women equal civil rights as men. Religious and polygamous marriages were no longer recognized, and women gained the right to initiate divorce.

By 1930, Turkish women could vote and even run for political office. In 1935, there were 18 women elected to the Turkish parliament, at a time when just eight women served in the US Congress and only nine sat in the British Parliament. In France and Italy, women didn’t gain the franchise until 1945 – 15 years after women in Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo by Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images)

However, in recent times, Turkey has witnessed an appalling turn in the women's rights movement. In a speech given in 2014, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, "Women and men could not be treated equally. It is against nature."

“Their characters, habits, and physiques are different … You cannot place a mother breastfeeding her baby on an equal footing with men," he said. “You cannot make women work in the same jobs as men do, as in communist regimes. You cannot give them a shovel and tell them to do their work. This is against their delicate nature.”

Turkey ratified a 2011 Council of Europe accord, the Istanbul Convention, which prioritizes gender equality. It also passed legislation in 2012 to protect women. But women’s groups say authorities are failing to implement their commitments under the Convention.

“The reason for violence increasing is that the judiciary and security forces are not using the available mechanisms,” Canan Gullu, head of the Turkish Federation of Women’s Associations told Reuters. Perpetrators also believe they can secure reduced sentences through good behavior and acting like a victim, she said.

During the coronavirus outbreak, emergency hotlines for domestic violence victims have seen a surge in calls. Most callers complain of physical abuse, Canan Gullu, head of the Turkish Federation of Women's Associations, told Al-Monitor, adding that psychological abuse was the second most prevalent complaint.

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