- The Campaign against Virginity Testing was launched.
- An administrative ban was imposed on virginity tests
- WWHR-New Ways prepared its CEDAW Shadow Report. The report in question is available here.
- The Campaign for a Law on Domestic Violence Protection was run.
The Law no 4320 on the Protection of the Family, also known as the ‘Protection Order Law’ was adopted.
WWHR-New Ways was granted the Leading Solutions Award by the Association for Women in Development (AWID) for its contributions to advancing gender equality and social justice.
- The Campaign for Full Equality in the Turkish Civil Code was undertaken.
- The Optional Protocol to CEDAW entered into force. The optional protocol may be found at this link.
- The new Civil Code was approved, abolishing the supremacy of men over women in the conjugal union and effecting fundamental changes (albeit with certain shortcomings) to women’s legal status within the family. The intense campaigning carried out by the women’s movement in 2000-2001 proved influential in the adoption of this new Civil Code that defined the family as a union based on equality between men and women. 126 women’s groups were active in the campaign that involved multiple activities ranging from meetings to press and fax campaigns, public statements and declarations to visits to Parliament and one-on-one dialogue with decision-makers.
- The Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR) was founded. More information about CSBR may be found here. Based on the premise that sexual, bodily and reproductive rights are fundamental human rights for all and that everyone must have the autonomy to freely decide on all matters concerning their sexuality, body, and fertility without facing discrimination, CSBR has 32 members over 15 countries across the Middle East, North Africa, South and Southeast Asia. Ever since its founding, CSBR has organized a plethora of events, activities, and trainings to build solidarity on the issue of sexual and bodily rights. It has played a leading role in starting a public discussion on sexual rights, a matter generally met with silence in Muslim societies, as well as breaking taboos around the LGBTI+ issue in particular in member countries.
- The Campaign for the Ratification of the CEDAW Optional Protocol was launched.
The Campaign for the Reform of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) from a Gender Perspective was launched. Immediately after the reform of the Turkish Civil Code in 2001, WWHR-New Ways initiated the Women’s Working Group on the Penal Code. The working group involved NGO representatives, lawyers from bar associations, and academics from all over the country. The group spent an entire year scrutinizing the existing and proposed Penal Codes and developing concrete demands. The criticisms and recommendations they came up with were formulated as new articles and assembled into a report, which was then shared with members of Parliament, NGOs, and the media. At the start of 2003, an extensive nationwide campaign was launched for gender equality reforms to the Turkish Penal Code. Established by 30 autonomous women’s organizations from various parts of Turkey, the Women’s Platform on the Turkish Penal Code engaged in advocacy and lobbying on the national as well as local level for two years. During the campaign, a booklet detailing the platform’s demands was prepared and printed, various meetings and press conferences held, meetings with MPs took place, and the operations of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on the Penal Code and Justice Committee were closely monitored and our demands communicated to them. In addition to these, the media was regularly informed about any developments, the Parliament targeted with fax and phone campaigns, and mass protests were held in various cities.
- With amendments to over 30 articles of the Turkish Penal Code, women’s sexual and bodily rights were brought under legal protection. Coordinated by WWHR-New Ways for 3 years, the Campaign for the Reform of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) from a Gender Perspective succeeded in changing the law’s perspective on women and attaining most of its demands. Although the new Penal Code does not meet all the demands and is still in need of improvement in this sense, the gains are significant: the new penal code criminalizes marital rape, contains measures preventing sentence reductions in the case of honor killings, eliminates all references to patriarchal and discriminatory expressions such as propriety, custom, chastity, honor, morals, shameful or indecent behavior, does not discriminate between women based on their “marital” or “virginity” status, removes provisions granting sentence reductions in cases of rape and abduction, criminalizes sexual harassment at the workplace, and considers sexual assault by members of the security forces an aggravated offense.
- The Human Rights Education Program for Women (HREP) was recognized as one of the best tactics in human rights worldwide by the New Tactics in Human Rights Program.
The Women’s Platform on the Turkish Penal Code submitted its CEDAW Shadow Report, which may be found at this link.
- WWHR-New Ways was granted the Gruber Foundation International Women’s Rights Prize for its efforts in building CSBR as a solidarity network and its related advocacy work.
- The Women’s Labor and Employment Initiative (KEİG) Platform was established, bringing together 32 women’s organizations addressing a diverse range of areas of focus from 16 provinces to formulate and endorse the common demands of women’s organizations on women’s labor and employment. The platform aims to influence policy-makers and develop new policies guaranteeing women a secure and permanent position within the workforce and jobs with decent working conditions and a fair income. In formulating these policies, it comes from a perspective foregrounding countering the invisibility of women’s unpaid domestic labor and dismantling all kinds of gendered divisions of labor both within and outside the home.
The Executive Committee for the NGO Forum on CEDAW and the Women’s Platform on the Turkish Penal Code prepared the CEDAW Shadow Report, available at this link.
The Campaign to End Violence was undertaken, seeking a comprehensive revision of the Law on the Protection of the Family. The 236 women’s organizations including WWHR-New Ways constituting the Platform to End Violence campaigned for the new anti-violence act for a whole year, motivated by the need for a more comprehensive law to eliminate violence against women, manifesting ever more blatantly and acutely in light of experiences of the Law no 4320 in practice. Dwelling, in particular, on the shortcomings of the law that was in effect and on the need for new anti-violence legislation to be primarily centered on the notion of equality, the Campaign to End Violence presented its own “draft law by women’s organizations” to the Prime Ministry, and organized demonstrations and public statements along with meetings with state officials.
The Law no 6284 on the Protection of the Family and Prevention of Violence against Women was adopted. An outcome of women’s solidarity and efforts on the part of the Platform to End Violence along with many other women’s organizations and platforms, the law is a critical achievement for women and children experiencing or at risk of violence despite its shortcomings and failure to include all of the campaign’s demands.
The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, known for short as the Istanbul Convention entered into force. This newest and most comprehensive instrument on combating violence against women was opened for signature in Istanbul in May 2011 and came into force in 2014. On the year it was opened for signature, Turkey became the first to sign and ratify the convention without any reservations. Currently signed by 46 states and the European Union, the convention has been ratified by 32 countries. As a human rights treaty on combating violence against women, the Istanbul Convention is not only concerned with punishing perpetrators or ending impunity, but also creating the conditions for women to live their lives safely, without fear, free from violence and discrimination, and be entitled to reparations for any violence they have faced. The full text of the Istanbul Convention may be found at this link.
- The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were ratified by all UN Member States including Turkey. As a result of the valiant efforts of the global women’s movement, the issue of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls was included as a stand-alone goal (Goal 5) among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals centered around the three dimensions of sustainable development, namely the economic, the social, and the environmental. In addition to this, an emphasis on women and girls was incorporated under 10 more goals.
- WWHR-New Ways co-founder Pınar İlkkaracan was granted the Joan B. Dunlop Award presented by the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) to support women working to build healthy and safe societies for women and girls.
- The CEDAW Shadow Report was prepared by the Executive Committee for the NGO Forum on CEDAW, and may be found here.
- The TCK 103 Women’s Working Group and Platform was established, and the TCK 103 Campaign carried out.
- The Article no 103 of the Turkish Penal Code regulating punishments for child sexual abusers was amended after the Constitutional Court struck down 2 clauses of the article. Amidst objections from women’s and LGBTI+ organizations, the age of 12 was introduced into the article as a threshold age for victims, affecting the severity of sentences above and below this threshold. The new version of the law entailed increased sentences to perpetrators exploiting children who were below the age of 12. As the draft law was being voted in Parliament, a motion brought at midnight in an attempt to have it appended to the draft sought to provide amnesty to sexual offenders if they had married their victims. This motion was withdrawn after provoking a strong reaction from women’s organizations and the public.
- Turkey underwent its country evaluation under the Istanbul Convention. The Istanbul Convention Monitoring Platform – Turkey prepared a shadow report detailing relevant rights violations in the country and submitted it to the GREVIO Committee. The report in question may be found here.
- With the “Not These Laws, Not This Way!” Campaign, women’s and LGBTI+ organizations voiced their objections to the “Draft Law Proposing Amendments to the Population Services Law and Other Laws” and the “Draft Law on Victims’ Rights”.
- Amendments to the Population Services Law granting muftis the authority to perform civil marriages were passed despite the many objections of women’s and LGBTI+ organizations, thus granting the official personnel of provincial and district muftis offices such as muftis and imams the authority to officiate civil marriages. Women’s and LGBTI+ organizations kept voicing their concerns that this amendment posed the risk of taking away from the rights women had acquired over the years, in addition to being in conflict with the constitutional principles of equality and secularism.
- CEDAW launched its General Recommendation No. 35, the full text of which is available here.
- In April, a draft law was brought forward proposing “Amendments to the Turkish Penal Code and Other Laws”. Over 160 women’s and LGBTI+ organizations came together to issue a statement and organize a social media campaign against the bill entailing an increase in sentences to child sexual abusers and the use of methods such as chemical castration. With Parliament going out of session as early elections were called, further deliberations on the bill were postponed to October 2018.
- As reports and rumors began to circulate that the alimony allocated in the Civil Code to the party falling into poverty due to divorce would be curtailed, the Technical Working Group on Alimony Rights was established, preparing a public declaration titled “Don’t Touch Women’s Alimony Rights”. The text of the statement is availablehere only in Turkish.
- The GREVIO Committee published its baseline evaluation report of Turkey as a result of its first evaluation visit to Turkey to monitor the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. The evaluation report contained 25 separate references to the Shadow NGO Report prepared by the Istanbul Convention Monitoring Platform. The GREVIO evaluation report may be foundhere.
- The Executive Committee for the NGO Forum on CEDAW submitted a follow-up shadow report on urgent issues regarding which the CEDAW Committee had requested a follow-up from Turkey in its Concluding Observations on Turkey’s 7th Periodic Report. The follow-up shadow report is availablehere.
- As the mandate of the existing members of the GREVIO Committee expired in May 2019, a new election procedure was opened for new candidates. The Istanbul Convention Monitoring Platform sent a letter to bodies and ministries responsible for the candidate selection process including KEFEK (the Committee for the Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men) signed by 90 women’s organizations declaring support for Feride Acar, the serving President of the GREVIO Committee.
- Turkey underwent its 2nd voluntary national review of its progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The 2nd Alternative Civil Society Report on Turkey’s National Review was written and published as a collaborative effort of 8 NGOs. The website www.hedef5.org was launched, focusing on the SDGs.
- On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the Beijing+25 Women’s Platform – Turkey was founded with over 60 member organizations. The platform prepared and disseminated the Policy Position Paper available at this link to be used for national and international advocacy in the lead-up to Beijing+25.
- Prompted by news reports that a possible “amnesty to child sexual abusers through marriage” was once again on its way to Parliament, the TCK 103 (Turkish Penal Code art. 103) Women’s Platform comprising 165 women’s and LGBTI+ organizations released a public statement, saying “We reject any and all changes to legislation that may serve to legitimize rape, early and forced marriages, or child abuse.” The full text of the declaration (only in Turkish) may be found here.
- The Women’s Platform on Alimony Rights involving almost 200 women’s and LGBTI+ organizations succeeded in postponing planned amendments to the articles of the Civil Code concerning alimonies with its campaign to keep women’s alimony rights intact. Campaign materials are available here.
- The United Nations carried out its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Turkey, evaluating the country’s human rights track record. Rights violations such as persisting gender inequalities, violence against women, feminicide, as well as early and child marriages were addressed in the recommendations of the UPR. WWHR-New Ways contributed to the NGO report prepared the Human Rights Joint Platform, preparing its sections on violence against women and gender equality. The report in question is available at this link.
- In response to the social media campaign launched by those opposed to the Istanbul Convention in the wake of the murder of Emine Bulut, the Women’s Platform on Alimony Rights started a counter campaign with the hashtag the #IstanbulConventionSavesLives.
- In December 2019, the news claimed that AKP would propose an amendment in the Turkish Criminal Code No. 103 in January 2020. Accordingly, men who sexually abuse children will be amnestied if the age difference between the child and perpetrator is not over 15 years and if they are married. TCK 103 Women’s Platform, the Women’s Platform on Alimony Rights, and Women are Stronger Together organized joint protests in 48 cities. Over 100 people including the representatives of political parties, journalists and feminist activists participated to the press conference organized by WWHR together with the representatives of the platforms in Istanbul. A statement signed by 198 women’s and LGBTI+ organizations was published. Although the issue remained on the government agenda, the proposal to amend the law was shelved thanks to the efforts of the women’s movement.
- Upon the president’s instruction, the bill on Amending the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures was hastily brought to the parliament using the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext. The bill, which found coverage in the media in mid-March and was prepared without consulting women’s organizations, was strongly objected by women’s and LGBTI+ organizations on the grounds that it led to a permanent reduction in sexual assault sentences. The Women’s Platform on Alimony Rights and TCK 103 Women’s Platform made a public statement and organized a social media campaign using the hashtag #CinselSuçlaraİndirimOlmaz (#NoReductionsInSexualCrimes).
- Despite all the objections, with the legal amendment mentioned above, the duration of sentences in closed prisons was considerably reduced and all convicts in open prisons, including those convicted of physical violence against women, were released under the guise of leave of absence. As a response, 177 women’s and LGBTI+ organizations signed a statement calling on the Ministry of Family and Social Services and all other relevant public institutions to take precautionary measures to protect women and LGBTI+ people from the threat of violence.
- In July 2020, AKP Deputy Chairman Numan Kurtulmuş targeted the Istanbul Convention by criticizing the concepts of gender and sexual orientation and signaled the possibility of withdrawal of the convention claiming that these concepts are not in line with “national” values. The Presidency supported this statement and a rumor began to spread that the decision about the convention would be taken on the 5th of August at the meeting of the Central Executive Committee of AKP. WWHR participated in the campaigns organized by EŞİK Platform (Women’s Platform for Equality) and We Are Holding on to Our Rights and Lives Campaign Group (Haklarımızdan ve Hayatlarımızdan Vazgeçmiyoruz Kampanya Grubu) and made a public statement. In order to counter the propaganda against the Istanbul Convention and to gain societal endorsement, WWHR also organized a digital campaign to disseminate accurate and understandable information about the Istanbul Convention. Social media posts in Turkish, English, Arabic, Kurdish, and Farsi were shared; three videos, an animation film, and a leaflet were prepared.
- In the summer of 2020, the government had triggered a series of discussions pertaining to the decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention. These discussions had been confronted with widespread protests, yet on March 20, 2021 at 2.30AM Turkey withdraw from the Istanbul Convention with the Presidential Decree No. 3718. Women and LGBTI+ people organized street marches all around the country protesting the decision. Relevant bodies of the United Nations, European Union, and Council of Europe issued statements condemning the decision, and international feminist organizations shared their solidarity messages. Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways have created an online chronology that archives all the developments that have taken place since the March 20.
- Bar associations, NGOs, political parties, trade unions and individuals filed lawsuits at the Council of State against the 2021 Presidential Decree demanding the reversal of the decision on the grounds that it constituted a usurpation of function and violated the Constitution. Turkish government, despite the illegality of the decision to withdraw, reported its decision to the Council of Europe on March 23 and the notice was put into operation. In accord with the Article 80 of the Istanbul Convention, in three months, the withdrawal decision had become official. During this period, women’s and LGBTI+ organizations and platforms sent letters to intergovernmental human rights institutions, including the Council of Europe, explaining that the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention is against national law and procedures. The letters stated that the legality of the annulment application should be examined.
- Women’s and LGBTI+ organizations from Turkey came together with European organizations and international networks to organize a campaign aiming to defend the Istanbul Convention, which is under attack, and to advocate for gender equality. The campaign group named United for Istanbul Convention in its first public action made the following public statement: “On the 10th Anniversary of Istanbul Convention, we forcefully protest Turkey’s unacceptable attempt to withdraw from the treaty. We consider the decision null and void and urge its President and government to reverse the decision.” For the details of the campaign, see this link.
- Within the scope of the Eighth Periodic Review, Turkey delivered its report to the CEDAW Committee. The women’s movement presented its own shadow report. Then, during the review process the CEDAW Committee made public its questions in relation to the eighth periodic report of Turkey. In line with the comments expressed and issues underlined in the shadow report, the Committee presented a comprehensive view on Turkey’s decision to pull out of the Istanbul Convention.