Forced marriages, domestic violence contribute to female suicide in Turkey – UN expert

1 June 2006

Traditional practices, such as forced marriages, domestic violence, and denial of reproductive rights, often play a key role in suicides of women and girls in Southeast and Eastern Turkey, while the authorities often do not implement protective laws, according to a United Nations expert who has just concluded a 10-day visit to the region.

“The majority of women in the provinces visited live lives that are not their own but are instead determined by a patriarchal normative order that draws its strength from reference to tradition, culture and tribal affiliation and often articulates itself on the basis of distorted notions of honour,” the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on violence against women, Yakin Ertürk said.

“Diverse forms of violence are deliberately used against women who are seen to transgress this order. Suicides of women in the region occur within such a context,” she added in a press statement on her visit that ended yesterday. She thanked the Government, national and local authorities and civil society for their cooperation and support.

She noted that Turkey is a party to all major international human rights instruments and its domestic legislation provides for the equality and human rights of women and addresses violence against women.

“In practice, however, I have found that authorities too often lack the willingness to implement these laws and protect women from violence. Interlocutors in the region explained that politicians and administrators are often inclined to arrange themselves with local power structures and norms at the expense of women's rights,” she said.

Ms. Ertürk stressed that personal, family and societal factors interlink in the phenomenon. “I have found that the patriarchal order and the human rights violations that go along with it - for example, forced and early marriages, domestic violence, and denial of reproductive rights - are often key contributing factors,” she noted.

“Additional pressures result from the fact that women have to navigate between the multiple demands imposed by the traditional order and rapid socioeconomic change in the context of urbanization and internal migration as well as having to cope with poverty, displacement and the ambiguities created by the political tensions often experienced in the region,” she added.

Referring to reports that in some suicide cases child sexual abuse in the family circle also appears to be a major factor, she said there was an urgent need to overcome social taboos and openly discuss and address this problem.

Special Rapporteurs are unpaid experts serving in an independent personal capacity, who received their mandate from the now defunct UN Commission on Human Rights and will report to the newly established and enhanced Human Rights Council.

 

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