Ending violence against women and girls

In 2019, four university students from Colombia and Palestine met with more than 100 Turkish and Syrian women in cities across Turkey for ‘Light the Dark’ photography workshops. Photo Credit: Tayfun Dalkılıç

Despite international agreements, laws, and policy commitments to combat violence against women, more effort is needed to end violence against women in Turkey.

Gender inequalities and stereotypes continue to perpetuate early marriages and widespread violence against women and girls in Turkey, despite legislative and policy commitments, including the Law on Protection of Family and Prevention of Violence against Women (2012) and a National Action Plan on Combating Violence and Women (2016-2020). It was the first country to sign (2011) and ratify (2012) the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). On March 20, 2021, Turkey announced that it is withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention. UN Women’s statement on the withdrawal is available here.

According to the National Research on Violence against Women from 2014:

  • 4 of 10 women in Turkey are exposed to physical or sexual violence;
  • 3 of 10 women in Turkey are married before they turn 18;
  • 48 per cent of girls in Turkey married by age 18 are exposed to physical violence;
  • One third of girls in Turkey are not allowed to go to school by their families;
  • 11 per cent of women in Turkey are prevented from working by their families;
  • Only 1 of 10 women in Turkey exposed to violence apply to an institution for help;
  • 90 per cent of human trafficking victims in Turkey are women.

According to the 2018 Turkey Demographic and Health Survey;

  • 14 per cent of Turkish women aged 20-24 were married before 18;
  • 45 per cent of Syrian women under temporary protection status in Turkey aged 20-24 were married by their 18th birthday, with 9 per cent of them married by 15.

UN Women in Action in Turkey

Partnering with Turkey’s Government, civil society organisations, private sector and media, and other UN agencies to prevent and protect women and girls from violence, UN Women Turkey works to:

  • Bring Turkish legislation and policies in line with international norms and standards;
  • Change harmful social norms and attitudes that perpetuate violence;
  • Empower women and girls so they can access to quality, essential multi-sectoral services;
  • Support civil society organizations to bring decision-makers to account, advocate for effective implementation of the normative framework, and monitor prevention of and response to violence against women.

Funded by the European Union and implemented since 2017, the UN Women regional programme on ending violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey,  “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds”  Balkans and Turkey works to:

  • Create an enabling legislative and policy environment, in line with international standards on eliminating violence against women and all forms of discrimination
  • Promote favourable social norms and attitudes to promote gender equality and prevent discrimination and violence against women
  • Empower women and girls who have experienced discrimination or violence, including those from disadvantaged groups, to advocate and use available, accessible and quality services.

Within the Government of Sweden-supported UN Joint Programme on the Prevention of Child, Early and Forced Marriages in Turkey, implemented jointly with UNICEF, UNFPA, UNHCR and IOM, UN Women Turkey:

  • Generates data and evidence on child, early and forced marriages (CEFM)
  • Works on improving monitoring, early identification and case management;
  • Strengthens survivor services;
  • Mobilizes men and boys in support of gender equality;
  • Conducts community-based awareness-raising on the legal, health, social, psychological, and economic consequences of child, early and forced marriages.

The UN Women Refugee Response Programme supports women-only centres in Gaziantep and İzmir that provide counselling, psycho-social support and institutional referrals to refugee and host community women and girls survivors of or at risk of violence.

Under its women’s political participation portfolio since 2019, UN Women has been working on combating violence against women in politics (VAWiP) which negatively affects women’s effective participation and representation in public and political life. In 2021, UN Women will continue its advocacy and technical assistance efforts on VAWiP prevention and protection and will conduct a comprehensive study on its manifestations and consequences.

Every year, UN Women Turkey leads the UN Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women by coordinating UN joint activities and communication campaigns during the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-based Violence from 25 November-10 December. Since 2018, UN Women Turkey has been using the “Fireflies” for the symbol and metaphor of the campaign, as they use their blinking lights to light the dark and communicate with each other. UN Women Turkey;

  • Set up the info website in 2018, calling on citizens to indicate when and where they witness or are aware of domestic violence;
  • Launched ‘Light the Dark in 2019, a public safety campaign where citizens pinned a firefly on the interactive map to show where they felt unsafe. More than 14,000 fireflies were collected across Turkey, mainly from women, and some municipalities acted to improve public safety. Light the Dark won a prestigious Silver Effie Award;
  • Raised public awareness on cyber violence against women and girls with the 2020 Light the Dark campaign. The website https://atesbocekleri.info/ - https://fireflies.digital/received over a quarter of a million visits and remains active. Find campaign results and information here.