December 11-13, 2009

Almost 70 organisations from all around Turkey were in attendance in this year’s Assembly between December 11-13, and they are setting things in motion so that laws are implemented without delay and the required number of women’s shelters opened. Independent women’s organisations that operate shelters and counselling/solidarity centres, council and Social Services members, experts and activists came together in Adana for the 12th Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Solidarity Centres between December 11-13. Around 164 women were in attendance on the first day of the assembly, and the six workshops on the second day had a total of around 140 participants. The concluding manifesto of the assembly, published today, follows.

Only 10 women’s organisations were in attendance at the first assembly in 1998, but today, there are around 70 women’s counselling and solidarity centres that participate in the assembly. The assembly has made it possible for many legislatures to be debated and implemented, particularly Law 4320 Concerning the Protection of Family and the Turkish Penal Code. The requirement for towns with a population of over 50.000 to have a women’s shelter, regulation 2006/17 issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, and the protocol signed between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of State responsible for Social Services and Child Protection Institution on 22.10.2009 should be seen as the assembly’s concluding manifestos being made into legislature by the state. Furthermore, on the first year of the assembly, there were only seven shelters in the country, while today this number is 52.

On the first day of the assembly, presentations were made and a press release issued according to schedule, and the titles of the workshops to be opened the next day were decided.

On 12.12.2009, the second day of the assembly, following the decision by the government to close the DTP (Democratic Society Party) on the evening of 11.12.2009, representatives from women’s counselling/solidarity centres and shelters from Diyarbakır, Silvan, Nusaybin, Saray-Van, Erciş-Van, Lice-Diyarbakır, and Ergani-Diyarbakır stated that they wanted to go back to their respective cities to be with their friends during this time, and expressed that they could not be productive during the assembly owing to the present situation. They shared their decision to leave the assembly with the participants, and expressed their regret that they had to leave, stating that their hearts would be with the rest of us in the assembly.

As the group said their farewell, the reaction from some women to the phrases used by the representative from the SFK (Socialist Feminist Collective) to express her desire to stand in solidarity with the friends who were leaving the assembly raised tension, and a few groups who interpreted the situation as a form of violence called for a session on self-criticism and method. When the session did not produce any tangible results, the group who had put forward the suggestion stated that they would not participate in the workshops. After this decision, some workshops were cancelled, and another group who thought the incident needed to be discussed in depth formed a separate workshop on female violence. The assembly continued to run according to schedule after the workshops began. Afterwards, representatives from the SFK and Mor Çatı expressed their wish to discuss the situation concerning the reactions in the assembly hall, seeing how they interpreted it as a form of violence, and for feminist ethics to be also included in the discussion.

Following a discussion and assessment of the situation, a significant majority of the participants thought the debate was sufficient, and expressed their wish to move on to the workshops. Representatives from Mor Çatı and the SFK, however, did not find the debate sufficient, and they stated that they could not continue with the assembly and withdrew from the workshops, saying that the situation could not be brushed aside.

Participants who preferred to continue with the workshops split into groups to attend the workshops under the titles that were decided upon.

Owing to the heated arguments during the assembly, Mor Çatı put forward a suggestion to hold an intermediate assembly in six months’ time to discuss Feminist Ethics. This suggestion was accepted by assembly participants.

As independent women’s organisations that run solidarity centres and shelters, we declare the results from our workshops on the last day of the assembly:

1. Report from the Workshop on Women’s Counselling Centres

  • Counselling centres should be standardised (the physical qualities of the centres opened by councils, staff, forms)
  • Staff working at counselling centres should receive in-work training
  • A guide outlining the work to be done by counselling centres should be prepared, and particularly those ran by local authorities should inform and coordinate with mayors, district heads, council members, provincial assembly members, council staff, local police stations, doctors and education institutions, and civil society institutions.
  • Considering new recruits, the communication network between institutions should be revised regularly (such as between the police and healthcare providers).
  • Police officers should be given training to raise awareness and their sensitivity to the principle of confidentiality should be increased.
  • Experts working in counselling centres should educate all segments of society on gender and violence, and raise awareness.
  • Volunteers should be given the opportunity to receive voluntary training to become trained in their field.
  • A quota for female police officers working in police stations should be demanded.
  • Help should be available not just in one main centre but at local and neighbourhood level.
  • Female unemployment is one of the biggest problems facing women and to eradicate it protocols must be signed and cooperation ensured between unions and the Employment Agency.
  • When creating their budgets, local authorities should be sensitive to gender, and they should be lobbied to make sure they comply.
  • Careful attention should be paid to schemes that cover a wide area, and local workshops should be held, keeping in mind the regional differences. The results should be exchanged in a national meeting. (There will be a regional workshop in Izmir between January 28-29 2010)
  • Research should be conducted into how services can be provided 24/7 in terms of coordination and work.
  • The existing law states that “councils of towns with a population of over 50.000 have women’s shelters”. This should be revised to state “councils of towns with a population of over 50.000 have to have a women’s shelter” so that the regulation is not left on paper alone.

2. Workshop on the founding and working process of shelters, problems, and solutions

Founding process:

As specified by the protocol signed between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of State responsible for Social Services and Child Protection Institution on 22.10.2009:

Women who are victims of domestic violence have a right to 24/7 accommodation, and Social Services are required to establish First Step Departments and inform the police as to their location and the contact information of staff. Both institutions have been granted a period of 3 month to comply.

According to regulation 2006/17 issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, all the women’s shelters in a province should offer coordinated services and be part of a communication and information network that is available 24/7.

According to Regulation 2007/8, each province’s domestic violence coordination committee should hold regular meetings, headed by the Mayor.

Working process of Shelters:

Staff working in shelters should be well-suited to the type of service provided, there should be regular in-work training, and supervision for workers should be supported on an institutional level. The physical conditions should meet international standards.

The establishment and working conditions of first-step centres and shelters will be audited by Social Services, which means Social Services first needs to fully comply with its own regulations. As the auditing body, it should complete its inspection and supervision process in the timeframe required by the law.

Issues

  • Specialised institutions for women with complex circumstances (such as mentally ill women, disabled women, women who are addicts, victims of sex and human trafficking, underage mothers) need to be established immediately by the Ministry of Health and its associated institutions, and local authorities.
  • Interior and exterior safety precautions should be taken to ensure the safety of shelters 24/7. Exterior safety should be provided by male security guards, and interior safety should be provided by female security guards. The necessary precautions need to be taken to ensure the safety of staff and in the case of a threat, an institutional application should be filed.
  • Cooperation between institutions is still not at the required level.
  • Problems are met in providing women with healthcare and treatment.
  • School records do not contain a clause for the confidentiality of women's and children’s information.
  • Registry records cannot ensure the confidentiality of women’s address information.
  • Law 4320 should be more efficiently implemented and act as a deterrent.

Suggestions

  • The communication network set out in regulation 2006/17 should be expanded to include all women’s counselling centres.
  • The current regulation needs to be revised and the definitions for first-step centres and counselling centres included in the law, since doing so would allow them to have separate budgets, buildings, and staff.
  • The protocol signed on 22.10.2009 should also include the gendarmerie.
  • Shelters and women’s counselling centres should work together under an umbrella institution with a feminist perspective on the establishment of shelters, the setting-out of the working process, the usage of funds and the policy decision making process, and public institutions should provide it with financial support and guidance.
  • Police training should include sessions on violence against women and gender equality.

3. Workshop on Fighting Sexual Harassment and Rape

  • First, it is important to change the mindset of those who think the fault lies with the women or she deserves it when she experiences violence or rape.
  • The biggest obstacle is the fact that rape victims do not know where to turn. Rape Crisis Centres should be opened, and just like the 183 Violence Helpline, a helpline for rape should be set up.
  • Lawyers acting as consultants to the Bar Association’s women’s commission should not be made to act as defence lawyers in trials.
  • An agreement should be signed with the Bar Association so that rape victims do not have to pay the costs of trials.
  • As we have seen in Antalya, a minibus decorated with the slogan “Justice for Everyone” and the logos of the Bar Association and women’s counselling centre should travel around the city.
  • If a child does not allow strangers to touch them, one must not persist.
  • The intervention at the moment of crisis is very important. The event should be told only to those who are in a position to help, thus circumventing differences in account and the victim being accused of lying.
  • Families should not be advised that filing charges against the perpetrator won’t work and that "it's not the end of the world”.
  • Police should not take the victim’s statement without a psychologist and lawyer present.
  • The gendarmerie and police should not allow a statement to be taken without being put on the record. Awareness training should be given on the matter, and a copy of the statement should be given to the victim.
  • The lawyer should instruct the victim that she does not have to be examined by a doctor if she does not wish to.
  • It should be kept in mind that proving one’s victimhood is an exhausting process that can cause secondary trauma.
  • The draft law presented to the parliament should include an article specifying that emergency departments of hospitals should have gynecologists and psychiatrists present who have received special training on the subject to help victims.
  • The victim should not be made to feel guilty.
  • If the victim is a child, their statement should be taken in one go, at the prosecutor’s office, and with a psychologist, social worker, and lawyer present.
  • Not all victims seek help through social services, and staff working in public institutions being shadowed by a volunteer from a civil society organisation would ensure transparency.
  • Confidentiality should be ensured in rape and sexual harassment cases.

4. Report from the workshop on incest

  • The primary aim should be to understand the problem of incest in Turkey. To showcase the scope of the issue of incest and bring it to attention and to explain the shortcomings of the present means of dealing with it is also important.
  • Taboos regarding rape and incest should be demolished.
  • Staff who work in fields where incest victims can reach out for help should undergo a systemic training. These occupations include teachers, doctors, midwives, police officers, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, social workers, sociologists, and NGO workers.
  • Sexual education classes in school should teach children the differences between “good touching” and “bad touching”, and develop their ability to say no.
  • According to Section 3 of Article 52 of the Penal Code Law, video and audio recording is mandatory when child victims are giving testimony, and the necessary infrastructure for this must be put in place as soon as possible.
  • The regulation issued by the prime minister’s office which is to be implemented by public institutions and NGOs and which contains means to prevent violence against children must be put to use.
  • The regulation, which states “Simultaneous and parallel revisions should be made in the financial, legal, institutional, educational, and cultural fields to prevent violence against children, and the fundamental reasons behind it should be uncovered.” The practices outlined in the “2006-2010 Action Plan for the Prevention of Violence Against Children” must be followed nationally by all governmental and non-governmental institutions.
  • The national free helpline for violence should be also be staffed by employees who have received training on how to deal with incest.
  • In addition to the approaches taken by professionals on the matter and their efforts to bring issues to light, an awareness must be raised in society and institutions as to the importance of this subject.
  • After an issue comes to light, the victim must be provided with the necessary protection and support, and for the process to be designed to avoid traumatising the victim again.
  • It is estimated that instances of incest are seen much more often than what is known. The regulations set out by the Prime Minister’s office states that since there isn’t a national database regarding violence against children, the Turkish Statistical Institute must provide such information by itself. The right to privacy should be upheld in such a database. It is also thought that conducting multidisciplinary scientific research into the matter can also raise awareness about the subject.
  • In every city with a university, a multidisciplinary committee should be established, consisting of experts such as a child psychiatrist, gynecologist, forensic medicine expert, pediatrician, and biostatistics expert, and this committee should be responsible for the long-term treatment and monitoring of children who have been abused, in rehabilitation centres whose addresses are kept confidential.
  • Awareness must be raised in healthcare and educational institutions regarding children with risk factors, and said children should be monitored in an appropriate manner. If suspicions are raised, a confidential consultation must be requested.
  • For all disciplines concerned, developing education, information, and communication, institutionalised schemes, improvements, media inclusion, and a multidisciplinary approach is very important. Long-term therapeutic plans must be led by interdisciplinary teams.
  • It becomes evident that for cases of incest to come to light, to be shared, and for the victims to receive the necessary support and in the long run succeed in reshaping their lives, there is a great need for holistic, coordinated approaches, multidisciplinary efforts, and organisations.

Many studies show that victims of incest suffer the effects of the trauma for the rest of their lives, and their quality of life is diminished due to it. “Incest is an attack in the most vulnerable relationship  and setting of all, and from one of the people you trust most in the world, for example, your father or older brother. If the people you trust the most abuse you, you won’t know who to trust for the rest of your life.”

Workshops on gender-sensitive funding, the effects of war on women, and media and women could not take place due to a lack of participant, but the assembly has been advised to open those workshops in the next congress.

5. Workshop on Violence 

Our friends from Diyarbakır expressed their wish to be with their loved ones in the aftermath of DTP’s closure. The behaviour and attitude displayed in reaction to speeches made while they were leaving and afterwards caused tension, and some groups who saw this as an instance of violence called for a session on self-criticism and method.

When the session did not produce tangible results, the groups who put the suggestion forward said they would not participate in the workshops.

As a result, a workshop on violence was organised. Participants came together and took stock of the situation.

  1. It was agreed that it was necessary to put the assembly regulations into use, to fulfill our responsibilities towards each other, to listen to each other and try and understand each other, and to discard our prejudices during the congress.
  2. It was agreed that inflicting violence by interfering with those giving a speech and those listening to them via speech and body language must not occur.
  3. Women’s rights, freedom, equality, rights, and justice are for everyone. We accept that any behaviour that negates these constitutes as violence.
  4. The decisions taken at the workshop on violence must be a step towards coexistence, and we agreed for the assemblies to continue with this in mind.
  5. We recommend that our decisions be included in the concluding manifesto.

Supporters

Global Fund for Women
Global Dialog
STGM
Çukurova Municipality
Adana Metropolitan Municipality City Council

Participants of the Women’s Assembly

  • AKDAM
  • Adana Family Counselling Centre
  • Adana Bar Association
  • Adana KADER
  • Adana KAGİD
  • Adana SFK
  • Adana SHÇEK
  • Adana STGM
  • Adana Turkish Women’s Association
  • Adana City Council Women’s Assembly
  • Akdeniz Women’s Cooperatives’ Union
  • Ankara - Institute for Social Studies Foundation
  • Aydın Kuşadası Women’s Counselling-Solidarity Foundation
  • Aydın - Söke Women's Shelter Foundation
  • Bursa Nilüfer Yg21
  • Çanakkale ELDER
  • Diyarbakır SELİS
  • Ergani SELİS
  • Eskişehir SHÇEK
  • Eskişehir Tepebaşı Council
  • EVKAD
  • Gaziantep Altı Nokta Foundation for the Blind
  • Gaziantep SHÇEK
  • Isparta SHÇEK
  • Istanbul Women’s Platform Against Sexual Violence
  • Istanbul KEİG
  • Izmir Amargi
  • İzmir ÇHD
  • Kayseri SHÇEK
  • Mavi Kalem
  • Mersin SHÇEK
  • Muş Women’s Association
  • Van-Erciş
  • Ankara KEİD
  • Ankara SHÇEK
  • Antalya Women’s Solidarity Foundation
  • İzmir – Kazete
  • İzmir Metropolitan Municipality
  • SHÇEK Head Office
  • Denizli SHÇEK
  • Diyarbakır Ceren Women’s Foundation
  • Ankara- Kozadan İpeğe
  • Ankara Initiative for Refugee Women
  • Antalya Women’s Counselling Centre
  • Antalya TAY-DER
  • Batman SELİS
  • Bursa Nilüfer Council
  • Çanakkale-ELDER
  • Denizli DEZGEP
  • Diyarbakır DİKASUM
  • Diyarbakır EPİDEM
  • Diyarbakır-LİCE-NUJEAN
  • Eskişehir Women’s Counselling Centre
  • Eskişehir-SHÇEK
  • Gaziantep KAHDEM
  • İstanbul End Domestic Violence Project
  • İstanbul Amargi
  • İstanbul SHÇEK
  • İstanbul Şahmaran
  • İstanbul End Harassment and Rape
  • İzmir - EKTAV
  • İzmir BEKEV
  • İzmir ÇEKEV
  • İzmir Women’s Solidarity Association
  • İzmir Konak Council
  • İzmir SHÇEK
  • Kırıkkale Women’s Guesthouse
  • Kocaeli-SHÇEK
  • Konya SHÇEK
  • Kuşadası Women’s Shelter Foundation
  • Mersin Independent Women’s Foundation
  • Nevşehir Family Counselling Centre
  • Samsun İlk Adım Council
  • Samsun SHÇEK
  • VAKAD