The State of Gender Equality in Turkey

Girl Up Club Member Selin from Turkey shares her #ChallengeAccepted

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‘’Is it possible for half of a nation to soar in the skies while the other half is locked in chains to the ground ?’’

-Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 


This is not the number of the top Fortune companies. This is the recorded number of femicides in Turkey in 2019 – and these are only the recorded femicides. Turkey has one of the highest rates of femicide in the world. Just this month, 29 Turkish women were killed by their husbands for reasons like ‘she wanted to get divorced’, ‘she did not cook well’, ‘the husband was jealous’, or ‘she wanted to separate when she discovered her lover was, in fact, a married man.’ We have lost 29 lives just because they were women, and we are not even at the end of the August. You may ask what the government does to stop this, and it’s almost nothing. The penalties are not severe and there are many mitigating factors in criminal law. For example, if the killer wears a suit in court and keeps silent, he can get reduction of charges for good behavior! In fact, our community tends to shift blame to the victim, with questions like “What was she doing there at that hour of the day? What was she wearing?’’ We even have a Turkish proverb: If the female dog does not share her tail, the male dog will not do anything.

To make things worse, conservative groups are attempting to influence our government to abolish certain aspects of the Istanbul Convention. To summarize it in one sentence, the Istanbul Convention is a human rights treaty to protect women against domestic violence. The purposes of this Convention are to:

  1. Protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence; 
  • Contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and promote substantive equality between women and men, including by empowering women;
  • Design a comprehensive framework, policies, and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of violence against women and domestic violence;
  • Promote international co-operation with a view to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence;
  • Provide support and assistance to organizations and law enforcement agencies to effectively co-operate in order to adopt an integrated approach to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence.

Unfortunately, Turkish women are dying. Turkish people wake up every day to a black and white photo of a woman who has been murdered on the social media, news, TV screens. Blood is shed every second like we are in a war – and in a way, we are. We are trying to win our rights, freedom, and value the power in us.

One way we’re using our power is by sharing on social media. The black and white photo challenge was part of a wave of women raising their voices to this injustice. We use it to stand in solidarity with the women we have lost. These women could’ve been more than only mothers or sisters, but women who might have become the greatest economists, the greatest ballerinas, the scientists who would break new ground in engineering, and so many other changemakers. We post our black and white pictures with the hashtag #challengeaccepted to show that one day, it could be our picture that is plastered across news outlets with a black and white filter on top.

I am proud to say it out loud that I am standing up against brutal violence and femicide Turkish women experience every single day! The Istanbul Convention is a crucial agreement for keeping Turkish women safe.

To everyone who is standing in solidarity with Turkish women: Thank You!

Selin Özünaldım


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