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Turkey: Parliament Adopts Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence

(Mar. 15, 2012) Turkey's Parliament (the General Assembly) passed a law on March 8, 2012, notably on International Women's Day, designed to prevent violence against women. In the words of the lawyer and women's rights activist Nazan Moroglu, passage of the Law “is a historic step that will better protect women regardless of their relationship status.” (Female Activists Make History with New Law to Protect Women, HÜRRIYET DAILY NEWS (Mar. 10, 2012); Ailenin Korunmasi ve Kadina Karsi Siddetin Önlenmesine Dair Kanun [The Law to Protect Family and Prevent Violence Against Women], Law No. 6284 (Mar. 8, 2012), The Grand National Assembly of Turkey (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi, TBMM) website.)

Some key features of the new Law are:

  • it covers all women, regardless of their marital status;
  • those who violate a protection order will immediately be subject to three days' imprisonment (under Law 4320, the Law for Protection of the Family, a prison sentence was imposed for violation of a protection order, but imprisonment of the offender was a lengthy process);
  • police officers are newly authorized to issue a protection order as soon as the victim needs protection (thus, law enforcement authorities are able to take protective measures in the absence of resort to a family court or to the prosecutorial authorities);
  • there are various means of protecting victims, e.g., by issuing a restraining order to prevent the perpetrator of violence from going home, by requiring the perpetrator to hand over to law enforcement authorities any weapon or similar device in his possession (or to the employing institution if he is in a profession that requires him to carry weapons), by requiring the perpetrator not to be in the close vicinity of the workplace of the abused; and, upon her request, by relocating the victim; and
  • offenders face a prison term of up to six months for breaching restraining orders. (Female Activists Make History with New Law to Protect Women, supra; Turkish Parliament Approves Bill to Prevent Violence Against Women, HÜRRIYET DAILY NEWS (Mar. 8, 2012).)

To enforce the Law's provisions, a number of technological devices are to be employed, such electronic ankle bracelets or wristbands to track offenders and alarm mechanisms in the form of necklaces or mobile phones to be used by protected women to alert the authorities. Regulations on the details of enforcement measures will be adopted after the Law takes effect. (Turkish Parliament Approves Bill to Prevent Violence Against Women, supra.)

Despite the positive aspects of the new Law, women's rights groups have criticized what they deem to have been “drastic changes” to the bill on which it was based, including the change in the proposed law's title from the “Draft Law to Protect Women and Individual Family Members from Violence” (reportedly agreed upon by women's rights groups and the Ministry of Family and Social Policy) to the “Draft Law to Protect Family and Prevent Violence Against Women.” (Parliament Passes Violence Against Women Bill on March 8, TODAY'S ZAMAN (Mar. 11, 2012).)

According to Moroglu, this results in the Law's treating women “merely as 'family members' rather than 'individuals.'” She also commented that the Law fails to address the matter of potential violence against women. (Female Activists Make History with New Law to Protect Women, supra.)

Another critic pointed out the failure of the Law to address the involvement of the press. The press should “be instructed by law how to write about the results of court cases in which those who attack women are condemned, convicted and/or imprisoned,” he argued. In addition, he commented:

The bill also provides for changing the woman's official ID and other documents if the life of a protected woman is in danger. But how does this help once a victimized woman is shown in the news? In my opinion, the press should limit the publication of the woman's picture and personal information. At the same time, it should be compulsory to reveal the name of the offender and the details of the penalty handed down to them. (Berk Çektir, Prevention of Violence Against Women Draft Approved in Parliament, but What About the Press? (1), TODAY'S ZAMAN (Mar. 11, 2012).)