Promoting gender equality key to curbing violence

The murder last month of 20-year-old zgecan Aslan, brutally killed by a minibus driver, caused a massive outcry in Turkey and brought violence against women to the full attention of the country’s media Thousands of people poured into the streets to express their outrage. For a brief moment, the outpouring of emotions raised hope that this gruesome crime could mark a turning point.

Men joined protests in larger numbers than ever before and officials promised more action.st

The murder last month of 20-year-old andOumlzgecan Aslan, brutally killed by a minibus driver, caused a massive outcry in Turkey and brought violence against women to the full attention of the countryand#39s media Thousands of people poured into the streets to express their outrage.

For a brief moment, the outpouring of emotions raised hope that this gruesome crime could mark a turning point. Men joined protests in larger numbers than ever before and officials promised more action.

Are expectations of change realistic in the current circumstances? When it comes to perceptions of gender roles, challenging social biases is a herculean task. Prejudices on gender roles are notoriously slow to shift, but one would at least expect politicians and official institutions to take the lead in trying to turn the tide.

Government officials as well as President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan did of course condemn the young studentand#39s gruesome murder But their lukewarm support for gender equality, or even outright rejection of the notion that men and women should be considered equal, are sending the wrong signals.

Gender-based violence can only be tackled effectively when the deep biases that underpin it are addressed.

For all the pledges made in recent years and awareness-raising programs announced by government officials, rarely a day goes by without further evidence that gender prejudices remain deeply rooted in public institutions, from the judiciary to the education sector The problem lies not with the laws, but how they are interpreted.

Within days of andOumlzgecan Aslan being killed, a judge in DiyarbakIr, oblivious to the messages coming from protesters across the country, handed down a suspended sentence to another minibus driver, who had sexually assaulted a Japanese tourist in 2011.

Last week, a young rape victim resorted to publishing the moving letter she sent to the judge who had acquitted eight defendants of her rape when she was 15, claiming she was consenting. In her missive, she asked him how, weighing 38 kilograms, she was expected to resist her attackers.

Many victims never even get a chance to tell their side of the story. According to the Human Rights Association (IHD), 335 women were murdered last year, which amounts to nearly one every day.

When a man appeared in court in Konya earlier this month charged with stabbing to death his 31-year-old former wife and mother of his two children, then driving over her body for good measure, the judge accepted that he had acted andldquounder severe provocation.andrdquo The court took at face value the defendantand#39s claim that the victim had told him he was not the father of his children, and it accepted the allegation as a valid mitigating factor to reduce the sentence.

Similar examples abound and the list could go on. In numerous court decisions, judges continue to bend over backwards to justify a defendantand#39s violent behavior Sentences against abusers or murderers frequently get reduced for andldquoood behaviorandrdquo while the victims, silenced forever, fail to get justice.

And is it realistic to expect much improvement in the near future if educators are allowed to pass on their biases to the next generation? In recent weeks, weand#39ve had the case of the high school deputy principal in Antalya province who suggested that male students form harassment teams to dissuade their female schoolmates from wearing miniskirts. When the media got hold of the story, she was demoted and transferred to another establishment.

Now a religion teacher in Tokat province is said to be under investigation for telling students they andldquodeserved to be rapedandrdquo for not covering their heads and conforming to a dress code she judged acceptable. In both of these extreme cases, the authorities were forced to step in and look into the matter But how many other teachers continue to pass on a discriminatory mentality? Government officials may deplore violence against women, but as long as they donand#39t unambiguously express support for womenand#39s aspirations and rights and enact policies accordingly, the social environment will continue to provide fertile ground for violence and inequality.

.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman