Sahin: mental revolution will change violence
The issues of women's rights, gender equality, honour killings, juvenile marriages and violence against women still remain serious challenges for Turkey.
By Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye – 15/11/11
Turkey's Minister of Family and Social Policy Fatma Sahin talks with SES Türkiye correspondent Menekse Tokyay about efforts to combat domestıc violence, increase gender equality and develop the legal infrastructure to protect and advance women's interests.
Minister of Family and Social Policy Fatma Sahin gives priority to educating women. [Ministry of Family and Social Policy]
SES Türkiye: What are the plans of your ministry in regard to domestic violence?
Fatma Sahin: For us, the right to live is a sacred and unbending matter. If third page news is now becoming headline news in Turkey, it means that there is a big problem and we have huge responsibility. For that reason, it is necessary to prepare and strengthen the judicial infrastructure of this problem, as well as to implement protective and preventive measures.
Our first action when I assumed this post was to transform Domestic Violence/ Family Protection Law No: 4320 -- with only three articles at that time -- to a law with 30 articles. We received input from all segments of society when preparing this draft law.
We organised consultation meetings with bar associations, NGOs and family doctors. We also listened to the views of opposition parties. Our aim was to adopt preventive measures, to protect the family and to design policies to strengthen both the family and the structure of the nation.
We believe there will be great structural change in Turkey, which covers a wide range of areas, protects lives, and is grounded on social peace and tranquillity. We have carried out extensive preparation.
Also, in this normalisation process, we accord high importance to one of our projects: "The Family Social Support Expert". That means, as all families have a family doctor, this study aims to assign a social support expert for all families.
This expert will be responsible for searching for any risk factor related to a given family, and if so, he/she will try to control that factor carefully. In other words, we would like to take all precautions before it is too late. Van is the pilot city for this project, and my colleagues have started to work on it.
SES Türkiye: Looking at the general picture, what has been achieved and what hasn't in terms of strengthening the social status of women in Turkey?
Sahin: First of all, you cannot stop violence by merely making laws. We have to first make a mental revolution. For this, providing education to girls is our priority. We will educate them, give diplomas and then provide them with economic freedom.
We took serious steps to increase the literacy levels of girls. We are implementing positive discrimination by providing state aid to girls who cannot go to the school due to their financial situation. The first stage in this mental revolution is education, and then comes employment.
In this way, women will not feel isolated. They will perceive the existence of a state that helps them. We are implementing such a robust system that when a woman leaves a shelter after three months, she will have the capacity and strength to stand on her own legs. We are teaching illiterate women in shelters to how to read and write.
Lastly, I would like to mention that "Istanbul Declaration" is one of the most important legal instruments for protecting women against violence. This declaration has been opened for signature in the cabinet and will be sent soon to the Turkish Assembly.
SES Türkiye: Could you discuss the new draft law about the fight against domestic violence you recently shared with the media?
Sahin: The "Don't let it out of this room" approach about violence against women is over. We are working on strengthening preventive measures to stop domestic violence and creating solutions. We prepared a draft Law on Domestic Violence/Family Protection with the participation of various interested parties. This law includes preventative measures against domestic violence, judicial infrastructure, and a follow-up system.
In that draft law, there are several innovations against domestic violence. For instance, if a man does not obey the protection orders imposed by the state, and/or if he still uses violence against his wife despite a court decision, he can be taken into custody. In addition, thanks to the technological means, we are increasing protective measures by using a "signalisation" [electronic monitoring] system.
This draft law ensures that women victims of domestic violence are empowered in the shelters and that their problem-solving capacity is increased. So, thanks to such a strong mechanism, they become self-sufficient and assume the responsibility of their children. These are only a few examples of all the structural changes which this new system will bring.