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September 19, 2019

Femicide and Culture of Violence in Turkey


Last month’s extremely high number of femicide incidents and video recording of the murder of Emine Bulut, who was brutally killed before her young daughter, got tremendous attention and protests from women rights groups. According to the “We Will Stop Femicide Platform”, in August 2019 alone, 49 women were killed in Turkey.

The narrative is not new to us. When women take steps towards their freedom in any form, they are confronted with fierce measures unfortunately sometimes in public places, since it is considered a “family matter” that no outsider should intervene. Bystanders often shy away from intervening due to such social misconceptions or self-protection. The issue has two vital aspects that cannot be overlooked: Femicide is a major symptom of gender inequality in society and it cannot be understood without factoring in the social context overall in Turkey where culture of violence is prevalent. 

Femicide is only one symptom of gender inequality women have to deal with on a daily basis in different aspects of life. Regarding legal protection of women from violence, Turkey ratified some of the most significant international conventions on combatting violence: CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and Istanbul Convention (The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic Violence). Domestic laws on protection of women from violence (Law no.6284) are also in effect. Although laws and conventions are perfectly tailored, women are still threatened, tortured, or killed every day when they dare to take steps towards freedom.

Femicide is not a simple psychological issue that can be adhered to one problematic individual; it points to social and political aspects belonging to each authority who webs around women. That is why we, the women, remember 1980s well-known feminist motto, “private is political” again. Laws, norms, politics and society form the private. In other words, we, as all with our systems, norms, beliefs, create the private version of a social individual. When political leaders publicly condemn “gender equality” and pejoratively discard any international conventions, lynching people or torture can become widespread under a repressive regime. That’s when people often start normalizing violence as an interpersonal matter. How can we genuinely talk about preventive measures against violence when a solid culture of violence is breeding?

Unfortunately, cultures and societies can favor violent acts. Culture of violence theory addresses the generality of specific violent patterns within a society. As sociologist C. W. Mills once observed, when there is one person unemployed in a society, that is a personal problem. However, when thousands suffer from the same, it is sociological. When it comes to freedom of thought or right to live a life exempt from violence, torture and ill treatment, we do not call it a personal problem anymore. One life counts as thousands do. In this regard, without condemning or eliminating culture of violence that is spreading fast under the current repressive regime in Turkey, sadly it is impossible to eliminate violence against women.

Yes, we protest, and we should, the lack of protection for women from the state, society or patriarchal cultural norms that continue to subjugate women somehow. However, we, women also know better now that our protests and resistance do not count as much if we are protesting or defending any rights discarding gender inequality and culture of violence that thousands suffer from every day in Turkey. 

Bilge Kara

Phd, Sociology
Independent Researcher

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