Trigger Warning: This piece contains material about
domestic and sexual violence (assault and murder).
Written by: Mina Tumay
Edited by: Abigail Goh
According to a digital tribute website called Anit Sayac, so far in 2020, 353 women in Turkey have lost their lives as a result of gender-based violence and the patriarchal legal system that protects perpetrators. In July 2020, following an alarming increase in the number of femicides in Turkey, a global social media protest broke out with the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted trending worldwide. The hashtag encouraged women from all around the world to share black and white photos of themselves to stand in solidarity with women in Turkey, who live in constant fear of male oppression, while the patriarchal legal system does not protect them. The black and white photos were a homage to tribute pictures of victims that usually circulate on social media following a femicide-case. Femicide is defined by the World Health Organisation with the question of:
“If the victim was a man, would he still be killed?”
If the answer is no and if someone is killed simply due to the reason that she is a woman,
it is femicide.
The photos also symbolised how the next woman killed could be any of them, as male violence does not discriminate and is oftentimes random. Sixty-two per cent of the victims were killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends; 28 per cent by other male relatives, while a smaller proportion (10 per cent) were killed by stalkers, neighbours or others. The protests broke out after 27-year-old university student Pinar Gultekin who had been missing for days was found dead. She had been strangled, put into a barrel and her body had been burnt. The murderer was her ex-partner, Cemal Metin Avci. The court case started in November 2020, yet still has not reached a conclusion and has been postponed until January.
The protests also urged the government to not back out from a Council of Europe human rights treaty called the Istanbul Convention, which has clauses protecting women’s rights. Following the protests, the government decided to stay a signatory of the treaty for now (but did imply that they might be altering the clauses). However, this was only a small win, as law numbered 6284 that was introduced with the convention that protects women’s rights is still far from being applied and regulated. The protest was supported by the Turkey-based organisation We Will Stop Femicides Platform. As a celebration of her efforts, co-founder Gulsum Kav has recently been named as one of BBC’s 100 women. As of November 2020, judicial reform has also been promised; therefore, possible improvements can be expected for the legal system; however, only time will tell.
The #ChallengeAccepted protests went viral, many influential people and celebrities joined in, and posts were shared by numerous media outlets and channels worldwide. The protests in July have shown the extent that social media has power and influence over policy-making. However, for Turkey to become a country where women feel safe, there is still an incredible amount of progress that needs to happen, starting with the proper application of ‘Law 6284’, improving the legal system so that women are protected rather than alienated, and most importantly abolishing the patriarchal culture in Turkish society that male violence thrives on.