Concluding Declaration of the 17th Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Solidarity Centers
As women’s organizations that combat male violence against women, feminists, and social workers working in local councils and social services to prevent violence against women, we came together to share our knowledge and experience and to strengthen our solidarity against male violence for the 17th time between October 25-27 in Diyarbakir. This year’s main topic was “Preventing Male Violence Means Preventing Female Murders: The Current Situation, the Shortcomings of State Mechanisms, and Our Demands", and 60 women’s organizations and around 200 women were in attendance. We discussed the shortcomings of the mechanisms to prevent male violence and its relation to female murders through seminars and talks by staff working at shelters and counseling centers who have witnessed firsthand the experiences of women trying to get away from violence.
Female murders are a result of the systematic male violence women are subjected to. For men who slap, humiliate, and economically restrict women, the final stop is the killing of women. As well as the inadequacy of the mechanisms to prevent violence, the existing ones lack political support, which prevents women from escaping from violent lives. The lack of social and economic support to strengthen women makes it impossible for women to set up an independent life. Nonfunctional mechanisms force women to return to a life filled with violence. State policies favour the empowerment of the family, not woman as an individual, which we can see in practices such as divorce consultants that act as intermediators. Any policy, mechanism or institution that forces women to remain in a marriage and within a family weakens women and deepens the already existing inequality.
The Istanbul Agreement was co-signed by Turkey on November 25, 2011, and was codified into law on August 1, 2014. Yet we see that the administrative structure required by the agreement is still not in place. We are also faced by lawmakers’ resistance to not put the agreement into practical use. It is concerning that the political will required to set in place the necessary infrastructure for the implementation of the agreement is still not exercised. International agreements to prevent violence against women must not remain solely on paper but be put into practical use.
As women who met in Diyarbakir this year, the inevitable subject of our discussions was the war raging just next to us. As well as the wholesale destruction caused by war itself, the cruelty of ISIS in Rojava manifested itself most clearly in its treatment of women. ISIS sold women in slave markets and issued fatwas calling for their rape. As women fighting against male violence, we see that war causes the inequality between men and women to become greater, and attacks on women’s bodies are a strategy of war. We regard the struggle of the women’s resistance in Rojava as a struggle for equality and freedom, and we reiterate once more that as women we will always be on the side of peace.
As women and women’s organizations that have come together at the 17th Assembly for Women’s Shelters and Solidarity Centers, we repeat once again the absolute importance of the following demands in the fight against male violence:
- Women do not need the Ministry of Family and Social Policies but a separate Ministry of Women which will create policies for them. It is the state’s responsibility to create policies that will ensure the equality of men and women, but not only does the state shirk from its duties, but also aims to strengthen the family with all its institutions. We demand that a Ministry of Women be established, and all other ministries create policies that will bridge the equality gap between men and women.
- We demand that easily-accessible women’s counseling and solidarity centers be set up, where women who have suffered violence can seek psychological, social, and legal support outside of shelters, and where they can share their experiences and empower each other.
- The rights we secured with the Law No. 6284 have remained on paper due to infrastructure shortcomings, the lack of information of practitioners, and practices that are not favourable to women. It is unacceptable for the law to be changed by citing these practices. It is the government’s responsibility to remedy these shortfalls and inadequacies, and we demand that it does so.
- The anti-woman, judgmental attitude displayed by the staff women encounter in institutions in which they seek support to combat violence lead to women feeling disenfranchised. Those working on violence against women in all public institutions, but particularly ŞÖNİMs and shelters, must be female staff that have the required training, that are non-judgmental, and that give priority to women’s accounts of events. In addition, to protect the female staff working in violence against women from secondary trauma and burn-out, there should be systematic support and supervision available to them in a widespread and organized manner.
- Currently, ŞÖNİMs exist only in 14 provinces, and the number of staff working in them is few. ŞÖNİMs are also situated away from city centers, which makes it difficult for women to access the services they need. Additionally, the services provided for men who are perpetrators of violence under the same roof as the women heighten the risk of women running into their abusers. We repeat over and over again our demand for shelters women can access as they wish and receive all types of services to get away from violence 24/7.
- According to the Law No. 6284 and the Istanbul Agreement mediation is a crime. However, mediation practices are continued by the state itself via protocols between the Ministry of Family and Social Policies and the Ministry of Religious Services. Neither a practice which forces women to return to a place of violence nor mediation can be accepted. We demand that institutions and protocols allowing mediation be rescinded immediately.
- The Istanbul Agreement outlines the state’s responsibility in order to combat male violence, and the necessary legal and administrative procedures must be implemented immediately to prevent and punish violence against women and to establish support mechanisms for women. Throughout this process, we demand that cooperation be sought with women’s organizations fighting to prevent violence against women.
- The idea of “unjust provocation” used to lessen the sentences for violent crimes is a carte-blanche for men. Unjust provocation should not be used as an excuse in legal cases pertaining to the murder of women. As described in the Istanbul Agreement, gender inequality and discrimination should be used as a reason to make sentencing for women’s murders more severe.
- Women’s organizations should be accepted as advocates in legal cases of women’s murder. The Ministry for Family and Social Policies, which is responsible for preventing female murders, is not an advocate in legal cases but a culprit. The Ministry is responsible because it does not follow up on laws and regulations regarding male violence against women, and for not establishing mechanisms to allow women to lead a life away from violence. This is why we do not accept its advocacy.
- Every women seeking support to get away from violence and/or staying at a refuge should be offered support in her mother tongue. Precautions to prevent violence and protect women should not discriminate based on language, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender, as outlined in the Istanbul Agreement, and should also include women who are refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, or sex workers.
- We demand that a Special Commission in Parliament be set up to investigate female murders.
- We demand that a Permanent Commission in Parliament be set up regarding women’s murders, and a Monitoring Commission comprised of women’s organizations working in the field.
- We demand that government keep track of incidents of violence against women and murders, and share this data with the public.
- We demand that the phrase “Women’s Guesthouse” used by the Ministry of Family and Social Policies be replaced by “Shelter”. Women and children escaping from domestic violence are not guests but persons in need of shelter to get away from violence and become empowered.
- The “Regulation Regarding Women’s Guesthouses” must be immediately re-named as the “Regulation Regarding Women’s Shelters”, and it should be comprised of aims to empower women and children staying at shelters. We demand that the contents of the regulation be changed in line with advice from women’s organizations experienced in running shelters.
- The number of existing shelters in Turkey is far below the requirements of women and children. Despite councils in towns with a population over 100.000 be required to open a shelter in accordance with the amendments to Law 5393 concerning Local Councils, we see that most of them have not put this into practice. These shelters must be opened immediately, and councils refusing to do so should be penalized by law.
- We demand that existing refuges be improved in line with the needs of disabled women and children, and new shelters opened with this consideration in mind.
- Women and children staying at refuges should be provided with monetary support as outlined in the Law No. 6284, and councils should dedicate funding for this use in their yearly budget planning.
- When a confidentiality requirement is issued regarding the whereabouts of a woman, and if she has them, of her children, it should be forwarded to institutions such as the Registry Office, Ministry of Education, and the Social Security Body at once. Women should not be required to apply to each institution separately for their records to be kept confidential.
- Centralized systems such as the Online Hospital Appointment Booking System and E-Education make it easy for male perpetrators of violence to access the records of women and children despite confidentiality requirements. The necessary infrastructure to keep records private must be put in place, and information circular be sent out for staff working in these institutions.
- To meet the shelter requirements of women with sons aged 12 and above, independent dwellings must be rented and subsidized by the state as outlined in the Regulation Regarding Women’s Guesthouses.
- The childcare support codified in the Law No. 6284 still remains inaccessible for a majority of women. Childcare facilities for children aged 0-3 and 3-6 should be increased, and their opening hours regulated according to women’s working hours. In shelters, rather than aiming to keep children “busy”, a holistic support system in the shape of children’s services must be offered, and social workers able to provide pedagogical support must be employed.
- According to the Law No. 6284, providing evidence is not a prerequisite of obtaining a restraining order. However, in practice, evidence is required both to obtain a protection order and for the duration of the order to be extended. The government must ensure that all public servants, particularly those working in the judiciary, administrative institutions, and law enforcement, should be given training on violence against women and the Law No. 6284.
- Despite restraining orders also including children, fathers are given visitation rights during the process of divorce, and men take advantage of this to find out the location of the woman’s address or shelter. We demand that these visits be overseen by a professional to ensure the safety of women and children.
Components of the Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Solidarity Centers
- Adana Women’s Solidarity Centre (AKDAM)
- Foundation for Women’s Solidarity Ankara
- Antalya Women’s Counseling and Solidarity Association
- Çanakkale Association for the Utilization of Women’s Handicrafts Centre (ELDER)
- Diyarbakır Selis Women’s Association
- Diyarbakir Ceren Women's Association
- Ergani Selis Women’s Association
- Rainbow Women’s Association
- İzmir Çiğli Evka-2 Women’s Cultural Association (ÇEKEV)
- İzmir Women’s Solidarity Association
- Women’s Solidarity Foundation (KADAV)
- Mersin Independent Women’s Association (BKD)
- Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation
- Muş Women’s Association (MUKADDER)
- Nevşehir Women’s Solidarity Association
- Söke Women’s Refuge Association
- Urfa Living Space Women’s Solidarity Association
- Van Women’s Association (VAKAD)