As January draws to a close, politicians and women’s groups are launching an opposition against a bill slated to be introduced by the ironically-named ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) at the end of the month: a bill that would let men accused of raping young girls evade punishment for their crimes by marrying their victims.
Dr. Adem Sözüer, head of Istanbul University’s criminal law department, cautions that the new bill is likely to increase rates of violent abuse against women and girls — even those not pushed into marriage by sexual assault — because of the way it characterizes women’s value:
[The proposed law] legitimises the mentality that women are objects to possess or exist for sexual satisfaction [of men].
That characterization appears to be well in line with the thinking of self-evidently misogynist party leader President Recip Tayyip Erdoğan, who described equality between men and women as “against nature” in 2014, and in 2016 described women’s lives as “incomplete” unless they had children.
As he put it:
A woman who says ‘because I am working I will not be a mother’ is actually denying her feminity [sic]. A woman who rejects motherhood, who refrains from being around the house, however successful her working life is, is deficient, is incomplete.
From there, it’s not such a stretch to say that the wrong done when a man violates a girl is to make her unfit to assume her natural role as a wife and mother. Who would want her now? But if he’s willing to marry her anyway, he’s solved the problem! No harm, no foul, right?
But not everyone in Turkey subscribes to Erdoğan’s retrograde understanding of a woman’s value.
The opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has urged the government to abandon the legislation, no doubt reminding them of the explosive protests that took place four years ago when a similar “marry-your-rapist” bill led to widespread public protests and presumably unwelcome global media attention.
Indeed, it seems the Turkish government is doing its best to conceal its rates of anti-woman violence from the rest of the world for more than a decade. In 2009, they chose to stop tracking gender-related violence and deaths. Those statistics are now collected by activist group We Will Stop Femicide, who point to the upward trend of violence against women since they started keeping track. General secretary Fidan Ataselim said the new bill was an attempt to obscure that trend, reducing the number of offenders by redefining the crime.
The United Nations’ statistics show that 38% of Turkish women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a husband or intimate partner.
Ataselim is confident that the women of Turkey — and those who support them — will rise up once more to prevent this legislation from taking effect:
In 2016 the government introduced a [similar] draft law on amnesty for child abuse perpetrators. All women stood against it and the bill was withdrawn after our protests. If they dare to try again, we will fight against it again.
And rightly so. Allowing men to evade legal consequences for their crimes against women through marriage provides them an incentive to pressure women into marriage by any means necessary, including manipulative appeals to cultural and family values as well as broader social pressure.
Once the marriage takes place, her rapist is in a prime position to cut her off from her social supports, leaving her more vulnerable to ongoing abuse of all kinds — physical, verbal, emotional, financial, and mental, as well as sexual.
Abusers have enough tools to help them coerce and victimize women, given that misogyny still impacts women around the globe. The women of Turkey have every right to resist the AK Party’s efforts to put this legislation in their tool box.
(Screenshot via The Independent)