Reduced sentences for good behavior greatest obstacle in preventing violence against women

According to figures released by the Ministry of Justice, the murder of women in Turkey increased by 1,400 percent between 2002 and 2009. Since 2009, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has not made public any official figures on how many women have been killed by men.

According to statistics provided by, a press agency that keeps a running count of the cases of women being murdered that the media cover, 281 women were killed in 2014. This figure does not include the murders that went unreported.

The Human Rights Association (İHD), in its 2014 Human Rights Abuse Report released on March 5, revealed that 335 women died and 789 women were injured in incidents of domestic violence and abuse over the last year in Turkey. In a similar vein, according to bianet’s 2013 Male Violence Report, 66 percent of women who were murdered were slain by their husbands, ex-husbands or lovers.

However, in the wake of these high-profile incidents of violence against women, which have created a public uproar, the punishments given to the perpetrators have largely turned out to be far from adequate discouragement to prevent similar incidents.

For instance, a Turkish court decided on Nov. 9 to sentence Orhan Munis, who murdered TRT station singer Hatice Kacmaz after she rejected his marriage proposal in 2014, with a life sentence instead of an aggravated life sentence (which would deny him amnesty or a pardon), on grounds that the killer stabbed the singer because of his “passionate love.”

Even though an aggravated life sentence was originally sought for Munis, who stabbed the 33-year-old Kacmaz 16 times in an Ankara park in September of last year, Ankara’s 1st High Criminal Court decided to punish him with a life sentence. The Ankara court came to the conclusion that the murder of the singer could not be considered a “deliberate homicide” as “the murderer acted under the influence of sentimentalism and rage that was derived from excessive love and passion.”

In another example, on Nov. 20, a man convicted of murdering his wife received a sentence of 20 years in jail, reduced from aggravated life on the grounds of unjust provocation and good behavior.

İbrahim Yılmaz (36) stabbed his 28-year-old wife Meryem to death in Diyarbakır’s Cermik district on Feb. 14, because he believed that she had been unfaithful to him. He also injured Hasan Yaman, a neighbor who tried to stop him. In a second hearing, the Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court reduced his aggravated life sentence to 24 years due to unjust provocation. The 24-year jail sentence was further reduced to 20 years because of the defendant’s good behavior during the hearing.

Canan Gullu, president of the Federation of Turkish Women’s Associations (TKDF), told Today’s Zaman in an exclusive interview that in determining a penalty, it’s not logical to consider the defendant’s good behavior before or during the hearing.

“For instance, Ayse Pasalı’s murderer’s penalty was reduced because he suited up and wore tie during the hearings. Meaning, you just need to keep your head down and hold your hands together with respect during the hearings. Lawyers do not even need to acknowledge this. Everybody knows this. The government needs to introduce legislation to establish aggravated life sentences for those who murder women, without any kinds of sentence reduction for good conduct,” Gullu stated.

Pasalı has become a symbol of violence toward women in Turkey. On Dec. 7, 2011, Pasalı became a victim of her ex-husband’s rage when he stabbed her 10 times before leaving her to die. The authorities whom she had previously pleaded for protection and safety did nothing to help her.

Speaking about the issue, lawyer Kamile Yılmaz Arısoy stated that it is crucial that murderers do not receive any reduced sentences for trivial reasons, in order for the punishments to discourage and prevent similar incidents in the future.

“Turkey is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Therefore, women murderers must be given the harshest penalties possible. Any kinds of reductions in the punishment of murderers are just unacceptable,” Yılmaz stated.

In the recent years, Turkey has taken steps to prevent domestic violence toward women. For example, enacted in 1998, Law no. 4320 on Legal Protection of the Family was passed in order to fulfill the commitments of the CEDAW. Turkey considers the CEDAW to be a binding convention to improve the status of and reduce violence against women. The obligations Turkey has to meet are assessed through countrywide reports submitted to a committee every four years.


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