Violence against women and girls is a grave violation of human rights and can only be put to an end by addressing its root causes, two UN officials declared today as they condemned the attempted rape and brutal murder of a young Turkish woman which has sparked widespread protests throughout the country.
In a joint statement released earlier today, UN Women Representative to Turkey, Ingibjorg Gisladottir, and UNFPA Representative for Turkey, Zahidul Huque, deplored the “horrendous murder” of 20-year old student Özgecan Aslan, affirming that only by fighting gender inequality and discrimination against women could such violence be prevented.
“We recognize the considerable progress Turkey has made with regard to the legislation to combat violence against women and commend the Turkish Government for its leadership in promoting the Istanbul Convention, including by being the first government to sign it,” stated the two UN officials.
“It is nonetheless concerning that notwithstanding the progress in Turkish legislation and institutional structuring, recent data on violence against women shows insignificant improvement since 2008 and violence against women is still pervasive with two out of every five women in Turkey exposed to sexual and physical violence.”
According to reports, Ms. Aslan was traveling on a bus in the eastern Turkish city of Mersin when a man attempted to sexually assault her. Ms. Aslan defended herself with pepper-spray but the assailant subsequently stabbed her and beat her to death with an iron bar. The incident has unleashed a torrent of debate on social media and prompted many women across Turkey to voice their own experiences of sexual harassment.
In their statement, the two UN officials underscored the important role that men and boys can play in society in fighting all forms of violence against women and domestic violence, adding that “each and every one of us can help to challenge gender stereotypes, harmful traditional practices and discrimination against women.”
Both UN Women and UNFPA are accelerating their messaging against violence against women as the UN and international community hurtle towards the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action – the defining framework for change which brought global visibility to gender equality issues.
In addition, the Platform for Action calls for better services for women survivors of violence and for effective legislation that protects women from domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment and rape, and for the effective persecution and punishment of the perpetrators.
“Violence against women has serious consequences for the victims but it also negatively affects families, the community and the country at large,” Ms. Gisladottir and Mr. Huque continued. “Preventing violence against women can save lives and prevent human suffering.”