Istanbul goes orange

Spotlight is on prevention as landmarks across Istanbul turn orange in response to the worldwide call to action of the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign.

Date: Thursday, November 26, 2015

Turkey- Maiden Tower website h full 675x450
Istanbul’s iconic Maiden Tower in the Bosphorus on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was lit in orange. Photo: Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality

Against the backdrop of an orange-lit Istanbul, the city’s mayor called for an end to violence against women and girls at a ceremony to celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

“Violence against women must not be tolerated, anywhere or ever,” said Mr. Kadir Topbaş, the Mayor of Istanbul. “Women and men should enjoy their human rights and participate in decision-making processes equally. This is the basis of a civilized society. I call on people everywhere to take action to end violence against women.”

Istanbul goes orange website 2 small 400x267
Kadir Topbas, Mayor of Istanbul. Photo: UN Women / Muslum Bayburs

Held at Istanbul’s iconic Maiden Tower in the Bosphorus on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and organised by UN Women and İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the ceremony kicked off the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, a civil society initiative that runs to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

This year, to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world, the UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign aims to “Orange the world” during the 16 Days of Activism.

Since 2008, UNITE has used the colour orange to symbolise hopes for a future free from violence against women and girls. This year’s ‘Orange the World!’ initiative focuses on preventing violence against women and girls.

A grave violation of human rights, violence against women and girls is widespread around the world and in Europe and Central Asia. Women and girls experience violence every day of the year, often by someone they trust. Globally, nearly half the women killed each year die at the hands of a partner or family member.

In Turkey, violence against women remains a persistent problem, with two in five women exposed to physical or sexual violence, according research from the Ministry of Family and Social Policies.

Istanbul goes orange website 3 small 400x267
Ingibjorg Gisladottir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Representative to Turkey. Photo: UN Women / Muslum Bayburs

From 2010 to 2015, 1134 women were killed in Turkey, mostly by intimate partners, according to a civil initiative that tracks news reports to map the number of women killed by men, with many more murdered women’s deaths unreported by police or media.   

“These numbers are horrifying and totally unacceptable and should be a wake-up call for all of us. We must unite to end this pandemic,” said Ms. Ingibjorg Gisladottir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Representative to Turkey at the event, which drew members of the private sector, UN and Turkish officials and the media.

“Women are subject to intimate partner violence and rape, and they are trafficked. Women suffer violence as migrants or refugees, as students or elderly, especially when widowed. Young girls are forced into early marriages,” noted Ms. Gisladottir. “Istanbul, this important city full of history and culture that connects Europe and Asia, is stepping up and going orange and telling the world that the epidemic of violence against women and girls must end.”

Istanbul goes orange website 5 small 400x267
27 landmarks across Istanbul went orange simultaneously, including Maiden Tower. Photo: UN Women / Muslum Bayburs

As the full moon rose, 27 landmarks across Istanbul went orange simultaneously, including the two Bosphorus bridges, municipal buildings, and prominent landmarks like the Galata Tower, Feriye Palace, Bogazici University and Maiden Tower were bathed in orange and lit up the night to support preventing violence against women and girls.

The private sector also supported the campaign with about 15 landmark buildings of banks, companies, malls and hotels going orange.

They joined over 450 similar orange events in more than 70 countries that lighted-up landmarks like Niagara Falls, the Council of Europe building, India Gate and the ruins of Petra in Jordan.

All told, at least 16 countries in Europe and Central Asia held UN Women-supported orange activities, including in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium and the Netherlands among others.

Mobilizing communities at the local level

A former mayor who served for nine years, Ms. Gisladottir stressed the role that local administrations can play in preventing and responding to violence against women.

Istanbul goes orange website 4 vertical 400x267
UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, Representative to Turkey and Mayor of Istanbul and  flipped the switch to turn the iconic Maiden Tower in Istanbul orange. Photo: UN Women / Muslum Bayburs

“Local administrations can mobilize communities to say no to violence against women. They can make public spaces safer for women and girls, ensure women’s economic autonomy and security, and increase women’s decision-making powers within local councils and administrative bodies,” she said. “They can provide better services for women surviving violence, such as hotlines, shelters, legal advice, access to justice, counselling, police protection, and health services.”

Noting that violence against women won’t be eliminated as long as inequality between men and women persists, Ms. Gisladottir said the recent adoption by world leaders of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015 showed that countries recognized that violence against women and girls is a serious but preventable problem.

“The gender equality goal, Goal 5 of the SDGs, aims to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls,” said Ms. Gisladottir. “It recognizes that violence against women is an obstacle to achieving the development agenda and provides comprehensive indicators on what we should do to reach that that goal.

“But violence against women can’t be eliminated if inequality between men and women is allowed to persist. I invite all of you to join us to make gender equality a reality.”