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Murder Of Pinar Gultekin Reveals A Dangerous Picture Of Misogyny In Turkey

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2014, said “You cannot bring women and men into equal positions; that is against nature because their nature is different”. In 2016, addressing women and democracy in Istanbul, Erdogan once again sent shockwaves by saying that women who reject motherhood are ‘incomplete’.

Many women’s organization took to the streets of Istanbul to rally and protest against the ongoing femicide in Turkey that has been once again exposed by the torture and murder of Pinar Gultekin.

As lewd comments against women by prominent world leaders are barely a surprise anymore, they have gone on to prove how such discriminatory outlooks have real and tangible effects on people; especially now more than ever, at the wake of the brutal murder of a 27-year-old Turkish woman named Pinar Gultekin that took place on July 22, 2020. She was beaten to death by her ex-partner Cemal Metin Avici. Later, he burned her body and covered it with cement. Cemal has been arrested and confessed to the murder of Pinar.

Even though the Turkish Constitution rejects discrimination on the basis of sex, the systematic gender-based violence and discrimination sheds light on the discrepancies in the ground reality. Many women’s organization and NGOs took to the streets of Istanbul to rally and protest against the ongoing femicide in Turkey that has been once again exposed by the torture and murder of Pinar Gultekin.

As many as 91 women have been murdered from January 2020 to June 2020, as the We Will Stop Femicide Platform reports. Monument Counter, a digital database of women, accounts that at least 337 women in 2018 succumbed to domestic violence. The number of such episodes has only gone up since the imposed lockdown due to COVID-19.

Unfortunately, these statistics peak into the actual position of women in Turkey, or whether they are given any position at all. Not to mention that these numbers emerge from recorded incidents which implies that there still are unaccounted events of gender brutality. Adding to it is the lack of reliable official source by the government for this reoccurring slaughter. Everything paints a grand picture of deep-rooted misogyny that can hardly be eliminated by laws and constitutional clauses.

President Erdogan on July 22 expressed his remorse on Pinar’s murder by tweeting: “The pain for Pinar Gultekin has deeply saddened us. I curse all crimes committed against women. I will be a follower of the case personally, and as the Republic of Turkey, we will do whatever it requires to stop the violence against women that we never want to encounter again.” Despite his issued statement, the government response has spoken louder; the lack of statistics of brutality on women, the police crackdown on protesters, and something that is being talked about widely is the absence of implementation and possible withdrawal of the Istanbul Convention.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, popularly known as the Istanbul Convention, signed on May 11, 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey, is a treaty to protect women against violence and injustice. The primary aim of the convention is victim protection and “to end with the impunity of perpetrators.”

As Floraine Leclercq of European Association for the Defense of Human Rights pointed out “It is considered the most ambitious treaty on the subject: it targets all forms of violence (psychological, physical, sexual harassment, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced abortion and sterilisation, which are criminal offenses under the convention.)”. The treaty is an all-encompassing document, with Turkey as the first country ratifying it.

However, the ambitious strides in the document never came to being, and how could they, since the government itself has been inactive in pursuing any of it. One of the top reasons behind the lack of implementation of the treaty is that several religious sects of the Turkey, who are pushing for a more conservative social schema, find it to be in violation with the Turkish tradition and customs.

Ebru Asilturk, the spokeswoman for women’s affairs of Saddet Party described the Istanbul Convention to be a “bomb” which would break the Turkish family system, and that it is a way of the West trying to hurt century-old practices. Similar statements have been made by Turkish officials against the treaty, and as a result, it is being debated in the Turkish parliament currently.

Various scholars, lawyers, activists, organizations are utilising avenues to express dissent towards the possible withdrawal of the convention because as it is the Turkish code of laws protecting women do little good to live upto its aims, the rolling back of the convention would allow more aggression and suppression with zero consequence and compensation.

The only way to cut Turkey some slack on the issue of the Istanbul Convention is arguing that other European countries like Slovakia and Poland are considering to withdraw from the Convention as well because the treaty affirms rights of women, LGBTQ, abortion and many more, which are deemed to be in conflict with traditional values and norms of these countries. To go back to what Floraine Leclercq had said about the treaty; it is a treaty for the rightfulness of the discriminated and for any country in the current world system to be discarding it would make its stand against human rights and democratic values.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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