Paper policies won’t help womens and childrens rights

‘Similar rulings will be out of the question from now on,’ said Minister of Justice Sadullah Ergin. He was talking about a verdict against 26 men who raped a 13 year old girl: the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld an earlier decision by a lower court to give only minimum punishments,  because the men claimed the girl approved of having sex. The Minister said the case was a few years old, and so old laws were applicable, and for new cases everything will be different.

Dream on. Of course, on paper things will be arranged just fine. But the problem is, the Turkish government has a tendency of leaning back after the paper policy is dealt with. It doesn’t take the next essential steps: implementing laws and policies, teaching professionals, and doing everything to change social mentality, including for example school programs, public awareness campaigns, teaching women their rights and opening and financing enough refuge houses. Investing in changing the very patriarchal structures in Turkish society.

How patriarchal Turkey is, was not only shown by this symbolic court verdict, but also by statistics: in the Global Gender Gap Index 2011, Turkey ranks 122 out of 135 countries. Turkey ranks among the ten worst performers in the economic participation and opportunity subindex. Women are just not visible as fully participating members of society. That has effects on every possible field in society.

In this court case, it struck me even more that some of the rapists were teachers – others were for example civil servants, soldiers, and a village head. A teacher raping a 13 year old is already totally appalling, but then having the nerve to defend yourself saying the girl ‘approved’, and then it gets even crazier: you can defend yourself this way in Turkey because there is actually a good chance a judge will believe you. On every level, this case shows that womens rights and childrens rights are worth hardly anything is this country.

Mind my words: the ‘reassuring’ words of the Minister of Justice will prove worthless. This will not be the last time a man gets away with raping a girl.

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