Despite hopes for a Turkish #MeToo moment, reactions to a video for the campaign against domestic violence posted on social media by the Turkish presidency shows that a considerable part of Turkish society is still against women’s rights.
Official figures and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s contradictory policies also show such a #MeToo moment is yet to arrive, the Economist said on Thursday.
Singer Sıla Gençoğlu filed last month a legal complaint against her boyfriend for beating her for 45 minutes in his home. By choosing to go public, the singer sparked widespread outrage by women on social media, what some called it Turkey’s #MeToo campaign.
Yet, unlike Sıla, the Economist said, most abuse cases go unheard and undocumented in Turkey, where two out of every five Turkish women have been subjected to physical or sexual assault by their partners at some point in their lives, according to the UN, while the number of Turkish women murdered by a partner or a family member reached 409 last year.
According to a study by Hacettepe University and the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, some 11 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence in Turkey seek help from authorities, while many choose to downplay the abuse, the Economist said.
Erdoğan calls domestic violence one of the biggest problems in Turkey and his government passed a law in 2012 on protection of the family and preventing violence against woman, which provided protection independent of marital status.
The same law also enhanced the rights of the woman for sufficient alimony in case of a divorce, which is also important from the perspective of domestic violence in Turkey, where only 34 percent of the women participate in the workforce.
Potential financial problems and risk of poverty have generally been cited as the main reasons why women in Turkey choose the stay in marriages in which they are subjected to violence.
But Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party’s policies towards women are also at times contradictory, as the Turkish government two years ago first proposed then shelved a bill that would allow rapists to avoid prosecution if they were married to the victims.
The Turkish government also pledges to increase women’s participation in the workforce, while Erdoğan, on the other hand, encourage families to have at least three children.
On Nov. 25, the international day for the prevention of violence against women, Erdoğan unveiled a campaign in line with the global UN campaign against domestic violence.
Istanbul’s famous Galata Tower was lit up on Sunday in orange to increase awareness against domestic violence, but only a few 100 metres away, police used tear gas to disperse women who gathered in Taksim’s Istiklal Avenue to protest against domestic violence.
The Istanbul municipality also took down a digital monument in the Beşiktaş district that was erected by women’s groups to increase awareness of domestic violence. The monument showed the updated numbers of women killed by their partners or spouses.
The presidency also shared a video last week as a part of the campaign against male violence. The video showed a husband using violence against his wife and informed women about their rights in such cases.
On Twitter, the video has been shared by 8,700 accounts, while more than 1,400 commented on it.
Contrary to the current polarisation in Turkey, secularists applauded the video, though some pointed out that physical violence was only one dimension of male aggression and that men also abused women psychologically and financially.
Ayrıca şiddet sadece darp değildir. Ekonomik özgürlük kısıtlamak, arkadaşlarından veya sevdiklerinden mahrum etmek, davranışlarını keyfince düzenlemek ve bir sürü zorla yapılan veya yaptırılan eylemler şiddet kapsamına girer.— Bilal İşgören (@Bilalisgoren) November 24, 2018
However many people, particularly men, also denounced the video, saying that it was not women but men who were victims of unfair treatment and violence.
One Twitter user said the video would make people think there was a psychopath on every corner and said the video insulted men.
CB sayfasında Bu videoyu izleyen ne düşünür?Türkiye'de her köşe başında bir sapık,her evde şiddet uygulayan bir psikopat var demezler mi? Kadına Şiddet uygulayan yok mu?Ne yazık ki var, yapanın elleri kırılsın.Bunların yüzünden tüm cinsiyet grubu aşağılamak, rezil etmek neden? "— BİRSEL (@BirselLknur) November 25, 2018
Another denounced the video for ignoring the integrity of the family and viewing domestic violence from the perspective of feminism instead of justice.
Bu videoyu çekenler arasında hiç mi aile bütünlüğünü düşünen yoktu. Resmen erkek bir şiddet faili. Ne çektiğiniz bu video aile içi şiddeti durdurur, ne de çıkardığınız kanunlar kadınları koruyor. Meseleye feminist penceresinden değil ADALET penceresinden bakın...— isa aslan (@esad29) November 25, 2018
Serdar Akgül, a Twitter user, said that rather than male violence, the video should have demonstrated the violence of women against children and men.
Keşke bu videoda sadece erkeğin uyguladığı şiddet değilde, kadınların yavrularımıza uyguladığı şiddet ve kadının erkeğe uyguladığı şiddet de gösterilseydi.sadece erkek şiddetini göstermek adil olmamış, şiddetin cinsiyeti olmaz tüm şiddete karşı çıkmalıyız pic.twitter.com/CoA4EzJCv3— Serdar Akgül (@Akgul01Serdar) November 24, 2018
“Dear Turkish Presidency, what message does this video give to single women?” another Turkish man asked on Twitter.
Others said they had decided to pull their support for Erdoğan after watching the video. One Twitter user even called on prosecutors to launch an investigation into the video.
Yıllarca desteklediğim, hizmet ettiğim ak partiyi ve sayın cumhurbaşkanımı desteklemekten artık vazgeçiyorum.— ÖnceAdalet (@birlikteforum) November 24, 2018
In Turkey, men who oppose women’s alimony rights are one of the most organised and active groups on social media. This group also led reactions to the presidency’s video.
However, it was not only men asking for their ‘right to beat women’ and saying they were the real victims that denounced the campaign. Some women joined in as well.
In a widely shared post, a woman said: “You have produced an incredible video! I am disgusted by all men! What is your target? To make all women hate men? You are very successful. Congratulations. What is your next target?”
Harika bir video cekmissiniz! Bütün erkeklerden nefret ettim tiksindim! Hedefiniz ne? Bütün kadınların erkeklerden nefret etmesi mi? Cok basarilisiniz.Tebrikler...Bir sonraki hedef nedir?— Sema Maraşlı (@Semamarasli) November 23, 2018