Workshop Reports from the 14th Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Solidarity Centres
November 19-21, 2011 - Nevşehir
Report from the workshop on violence against women, current policies, and the feminist struggle
The workshop defines violence against women as one of the most significant means of exerting power over women’s bodies and labour by men and continuing this under the patriarchal system. Violence against women is born out of the inequality between men and women.
- Government policies regarding women should be closely monitored, and the accomplishment and discourses of the feminist struggle should not be devalued. In the face of this, we will be determined to create and improve our feminist strategies.
- The talks between women’s organisations and the government are important, however, we must be aware of the danger of the current approach of the government becoming a diversion.
- We must create our own agenda aside from this period of talks.
- We are critical of the word “woman” being replaced with “family” in the title of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies. We will be persistent in our demand that the name be changed to the Ministry of Women and Equality instead.
- We will fight to pass the proposal for the law concerning the Prevention of Violence of All Kinds and Domestic Violence Against Women, drafted by 222 women’s organisations, into legislature without any alterations. We will increase women’s knowledge of the law to strengthen our struggle.
- As well as the above mentioned law, the Istanbul Agreement also needs to be wholly approved by parliament. We will ensure that the agreement is put into practice according to its requirements.
- It is important that institutions’ (such as law enforcement, the judiciary, courts of law, Social Services, forensic medicine, healthcare providers, the office of the mufti, etc.) practices regarding violence against women be monitored. These institutions should be transparent regarding their policies. We demand that staff working at said institutions be provided with periodical training on gender and women’s rights.
- It is a must that the education curriculum be re-organised with gender equality in mind. The government’s efforts on the matter will be monitored by ourselves, and we will be adamant that discriminatory and sexist texts be removed from the national curriculum.
- On November 25, we will hold a shared press conference to announce our demand that the draft legislature of the law concerning the Prevention of Violence of All Kinds and Domestic Violence Against Women, prepared by 222 women’s organisations, be made into law. We will petition the Ministry for this law to pass without hindrance at once.
- We are against the unclear process of the establishment of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, and the abolition of Social Services Child Protection Institution to be taken over by the ministry. Practices that compound the replacement of the idea of “rights” by the idea of “charity” are against social welfare and equality policies.
- Certain practices by the government such as family guidance centres and the family education program strengthen the concept of family in which the woman is weakened. Substantial feminist discourses and policies must be produced to fight this.
- Social services such as care provision at home and family aid should be monitored, and the process should be evaluated regarding feminist, women-empowering policies.
- The legislative process of the government and the protocols signed with the Ministry of Religious Affairs and various other institutions will be carefully monitored by us. We should activate the website www.siginaksizbirdunya.org to be able to share information and verbalise our responses.
- Keeping in mind that the media is biased, we will examine all the news published in the media about women with a feminist method and be skeptical. We will produce a feminist strategy against the sexist language used by the media.
Report from the workshop on the conceptualisation of violence, volunteering in women’s organisations, and raising awareness
- The participants of the workshop reached a consensus that when describing violence, the perpetrator of the crime should also be mentioned, and it should be kept in mind that violence is systematic. The majority of perpetrators of violence are men. Some participants suggested that violence by women could also be included under the term “male violence”, and others suggested that the term “male violence” suggests that men are inherently violent, and this essentialism was unacceptable. It was decided that the terms would be debated further, and that violence was not something inherent but something societal. The term “patriarchal violence” was suggested instead of “male violence”, and it was said this term pointed to social and political violence.
- Some workshop participants expressed their view that the assembly itself was not able to create an atmosphere devoid of violence. The reasoning behind their argument was the reactions they received when they emphasised their ethnic background. Tensions were raised when a Kurdish woman talked of her experiences in her mother tongue via an interpreter. Following this, the issue of differences causing individuals to be marginalised was raised. It was emphasised that the fact that all the participants of the assembly were women did not mean they had the same experiences, that our differences could empower everyone, and the women participating in the assembly could express themselves as they wished. The view that the assembly was not a platform to discuss state violence, and that only the violence women faced for being female could be discussed was brought up. It was said that it wasn’t always possible to differentiate between the two.
- At this point in the argument, reminders were made regarding the principles agreed on by all the components of the assembly. Participants were reminded that these principles, created from a feminist perspective, did not allow us to impose our experiences onto other women, and Kurdish or Armenian women could attend the assembly without having to hide their identity. It was mentioned that feminism questions hierarchy and power structures, that we need to face our own experiences, and we need to fight against hierarchical structures that prevent us from participation.
- The women shared their experiences regarding the organisations they are members of. It was seen that some organisations opted for hierarchical structures such as a board of directors and a manager, while others kept those structures only on paper and preferred not to practice a hierarchical structure. It was said that volunteering was sometimes problematic and all the work was left to the board of directors. Various answers were given to the question “What in your opinion lowers volunteering rates?”, such as there wasn’t an atmosphere of reconciliation and that civil society organisations usually operated on a project-by-project basis.
- Some women wanted to obtain tangible conclusions at the end of the workshop and relay these conclusions to the organisations they were a part of, and they criticised the workshop for not providing such conclusions. Some defended that workshops were not lectures, and it wasn’t a seminar where an expert would give information and the participants take notes. The importance of expressing the accomplishments and shortcomings that were the results of years of experience was emphasised.
- At the end of the workshop, some women opted to write a petition to express the discomfort they felt due to their ethnic backgrounds being made the subject of discussion.
Report from the Assembly on Shelters and Solidarity Centres' Workshop on Shelters
- 1. Why shelters? Shelters make male violence visible and make the perpetrator of violence known to the community. Other concepts offered as alternative to shelters undermines the struggle against violence. Male violence is political, so shelter is a political concept. Women seek shelter to get away from male violence, and the aim of women’s liberation must be a world without shelters. There was a debate about “independent living homes” during the workshops. It was said that women staying at shelters were not independent but engaged in the struggle to be independent. The topic was left open to discussion. Ultimately, the word “shelter” is important, it is political, and we prefer to use it.
- Counselling/Solidarity Centres. Solidarity centres should live up to their name. Rather than a relationship of expert and advisee, it should be built on women’s solidarity. A questioning and judgemental approach prevents women from acting in solidarity. Where there is a shelter, there must also be a solidarity centre.
- Shelter and Counselling/Solidarity Centres Practices. Shelter practices: If women are responsible for their own safety during their stays at the shelter, this will empower them to ensure their own safety when they leave the refuge. Staff should not be overprotective, decide or make rules on women’s behalf, and have an interrogative approach, rather, they should strive to empower women. Women who work at Social Services and councils reported that working in a public institution imparts certain responsibilities on them, and the bureaucratic structure leaves them with no option but to make and implement rules sometimes. However, we need to question the narrow field drawn by rules and regulations and believe in our power to change it. The assembly is an important platform for policies regarding shelters and counselling centres to be produced and shared. Sharing of experience and information: The statistics kept by counselling centres and shelters can be shared with other such centres. As in the example of Izmir, a platform can be established where counselling/solidarity centres can regularly share data and experiences, and the results can be shared with public institutions such as the Directorate General of Status of Women. The assembly website can be used to share good or bad practices one has witnessed, solutions that are being developed, or problems to which a solution is being sought. Auditing: Both social services and local council shelters have important quality issues. Women’s organisations and civil society platforms should have the right to audit them. A commission can be set up under the assembly to share the experiences about shelters and counselling/solidarity centres more at length.
- Post Shelter. Even though shelters and solidarity centres offer support for women so that they can find a job and set up a home, their resources are limited. The state should perform its duties in the support of women during and after their stay in shelters.
- Law Enforcement and Confidentiality: When women face police violence, it must be kept in mind that they’re being targeted due to being women. Women’s solidarity and the perpetrator’s identity being made public are of paramount importance in cases like this. The implementation of the three-fold protocol leads to positive results in certain local authorities. We can request it to be extended to all cities and to be part of these mechanisms. The Istanbul Agreement should be accepted without reserve, most of the above mentioned subjects are regulated therein.
- Specialisation. The guise of specialisation paves the way for discriminatory practices. Shelters are places to set up an alternative life. Staff working at shelters and solidarity centres should attend awareness courses about discrimination. We must accept women with their differences and point them towards avenues of empowerment.
Concluding Declaration of the Workshop on Disabled Women
According to article 3 of Law 2828 concerning the foundation of Social Services, a disabled person is someone who loses her mental, physical, and social faculties to varying levels from birth or as a result of an illness or accident, and thus faces difficulties adapting into society and requires protection, care, rehabilitation, and guidance.
- The word disabled should be used when certain practices and shortcomings on the part of the state causes a handicapped person to be unable to go about their daily lives (such as pavements being too high, potholes, etc.). There is no stigma associated with the usage of the words “blind”, “lame”, “deaf”, or more generally, “handicapped”. Using the word “disabled” to cover all these categories softens the concept, just like calling women “lady" or “miss”. Thus a protectionist approach is brought to both women’s rights and disabled people’s rights. What’s important is for society to be equipped with a perspective that views disabled people without discrimination as individuals with human rights.
- Certain government institutions which have a responsibility towards disabled people and particularly disabled women offer to the public the failures and successes of disabled individuals in an exaggerating manner, thus making the problems faced by disabled people and their solutions into a personal matter, which is far from an understanding of a social state.
- Disabled women face twofold discrimination, both for being disabled and for being women. The main reasons for this discrimination are hierarchy, inequality, marginalisation, and prejudice. Regardless of religion, language, or race, disabled women are fundamentally discriminated against, both in the private and public sphere, at home, on the streets, in education, and in employment.
- In textbooks, films, and printed and visual media, disabled women are discriminated against by depicted as being pathetic, helpless, incapable, and untalented.
- No precautions are taken in women’s refuges to make disabled women’s lives easier in terms of accessibility and communication, furthermore, counselling centres, shelters, and nursing homes operated by the government and local authorities do not allow disabled women to be residents.
- Despite there being no legislature stating that disabled people cannot adopt children, in practice, disabled people, particularly women, are denied adoption.
- In social life and within families, disabled women face an increased possibility of sexual abuse. Women with mental disabilities in particular should be informed on their sexuality, and they should be allowed to get to know their identities, protect themselves, and meet their needs.
Conclusions and Precautions
- Civil society organisations should not shirk from using the word “disabled” or “handicapped” depending on context.
- Discriminatory practices that ostracise disabled women from society (such as disabled women’s refuge, disabled parks, disabled hotels) should be abandoned for practices that are inclusive.
- Women’s organisations should lobby for the right of disabled women to education and work.
- Disabled women should be represented in the media by means of films, TV shows, news, advertisements etc where positive attributes of disabled women are highlighted.
- There should be no obstacles for disabled women to access and communicate with women’s counselling centres and refuges. Interpreters in sign language and other languages should be provided.
- Local authorities should be asked to document what portion of the services they planned to offer disabled people between 2007-2012 have come to fruition.
- Women with mental disabilities and their relatives should be provided with sexual health information, so that they become capable of protecting themselves and meeting their needs.