December 3-5 2004, Çanakkale

The Assembly on Women's Shelters and Solidarity Centres began as an initiative by the Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation, and for the past six years it has been a part of the United Nations’ International End Violence Towards Women Day on November 25. The seventh assembly took place in Çanakkale between December 3-5, 2004, and 77 women’s organisations and groups from all round Turkey came together. We thank the Çanakkale Association for the Utilization of Women’s Handicrafts (ELDER) for hosting us, the Communication Centre for their organisation efforts, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation for funding support. It has made us stronger to see that during the past year since the 6th Assembly, some of the issues we have put forward, monitored, and listed below have been realised:

  1. The determined struggle lead by the women’s movement throughout the drafting and the passage of the new Turkish Penal Code made it possible for articles benefitting women to be made into legislature.
  2. Since the previous assembly, many counselling and solidarity centres were opened in various regions. They introduced themselves in the seventh assembly.
  3. We organised a joint petition action on July 5, 2004 as women’s organisations combating violence against women so that provisions regarding the opening of shelters, as per our previous demands, were included in the draft law regarding local authorities.
  4. The women’s movement organised demonstration in response to honour killings in 2004, particularly the murder of Güldünya Tören and Nuran H.
  5. The sharing of information, documents, and experiences amongst women’s organisations is one of the most important tools of organised action against violence, and the Communication Centre was established to this end by the Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation, as well as to create a shared language, to devise and run training programmes, to speed up communication and ensure its continuity.
  6. An intermediate assembly meeting was held in May 2004, organised by the Communication Centre.
  7. Thanks to an application by lawyer Ayten Tekeli who works for the İzmir Bar Association, an important decision was made regarding a married woman’s right to use only her own surname by the European Court of Human Rights.

Demands by the Women’s Rights Implementation Institute of the Istanbul Bar Association regarding the Code of Practice In Criminal Sentencing were debated during the assembly, and signatures collected for these demands to be made into legislature were conveyed to Parliament and MPs.

The Directorate General of Status and Issues of Women was criticised for its decision to select Non-Governmental Organisations to attend the Preliminary Meeting of the United Nations Beijing+10 to be held in Geneva on December 13-14, 2004 without informing women’s organisations.

Additionally, the decision to change the Directorate General of Status Issues of Womenname into Directorate General of Status of Women as if women in Turkey were not presently facing any issues was criticised.

The components of the Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Solidarity centres have adopted the following aims to strengthen their union:

  • To begin with the knowledge of the diversity we can accomplish when differences become awareness,
  • To be aware of the importance of attending the assembly for its components and all women,
  • To adopt principles against otherising women and women’s groups,
  • To organise our own representation in national and international platform and to protest representation without our consent,
  • To know that one of the guarantors of our independence is the pool of funds created so that we can share it,
  • To exist on our own principles when receiving funding, and act on shared principles when approaching funding providers.

The increasing number of participants in this year’s assembly is a positive development. There was an argument about the participation of assembly components and women/organisations that do not specifically focus on violence against women. The debate was postponed until later to strengthen the assembly.

Following the decision to debate “Feminism” in the Intermediate Assembly Meeting in May 2004, various presentations were made during the assembly regarding the “Politicisation of Violence Against Women”.

Workshops on Women’s Shelters and Counselling/Solidarity Centres; Implementation and Popularisation of Law Decrees Regarding Women and Suggestions for Revision; Women and Media; Women’s Organisations, the Issue of Structure and Independence; and Feminist Ethics and Tradition, the Concept of Honour, Sexual Violence, and Sexual Freedom were held, and the following decisions were reached.

  1. It was decided that this year’s working program should include the subject of “Combating Violence Against Women” under the supervision of the European Women’s Lobby for funding to be set aside from the public and local authority budgets, in general for spending on women’s causes, and particularly for the prevention of violence and for support programs for women who have experienced violence to be realised, and for gender-based budgeting to be made mandatory and for the issue to be included in EU regulations.
  2. Local authorities should support independent women’s shelters run by independent women’s associations in terms of location and budgeting and without interfering with their work. For this reason, attempts should be made for the Regulation on Women’s Shelter Practices to be prepared according to international shelter principles and the views of the women’s movement.
  3. The following universal principles should be followed in shelters opened or ran by local authorities and independent women’s organisations:
    • The location of shelters are confidential (no opening ceremonies) and information about women who apply to them are kept private.
    • There can be no discrimination amongst women based on age, sexual orientation, class, disability, religion, caste, language, profession, marital status, nationality, race, political views etc.
    • No child or woman staying at shelters can be subjected to oppression or violence.
    • Practices at shelters can only be ran by female staff with a feminist perspective.
    • Shelters accept mother and children together.
    • Shelters are required to ensure the safety of women and children.
    • A woman’s experience of violence is fundamental and their statements valid.
    • The shelter environment should be conducive for women to discover the means and routes of getting away from violence. For women to be able to establish a life without violence, the necessary medical, psychological and legal aid should be given, and there should be training courses, opportunities for employment, and childcare support. Shelters should be able to create an environment in which women can reclaim their self-esteem.
    • To ensure the privacy of shelters’ locations, and to provide women with the necessary support outside of shelters, shelters must be opened in tandem with women’s counselling centres.
  4. It is unacceptable to call shelters ran by public institutions or local councils “Women’s Protection House” or “Guesthouse”. These names take violence against women outside the realm of a social issue and view woman as an object to be protected and sheltered, and violence against women as a problem that belongs to woman, they also force women to stay within their traditional family roles without any change. However, shelters are not only places to ensure women’s physical safety or to give women respite from male violence, but also a place where they can establish a non-violent relationship with other women and their children, and where they can discover the possibility of a life without violence. This is why “Shelter” should be the preferred term.
  5. Considering the importance of independent women’s shelters, the necessary solidarity and coalition should be arranged for the shelters ran by Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation and Ankara Women’s Solidarity Foundation (KADAV), both of which are important achievements of the women’s movement in Turkey, to be re-opened at once.
  6. In case of social centres and shelters ran by Social Services to be devolved into local governments as per the Local Authorities Law, female staff who have a feminist perspective, who are trained in Gender and Women’s Rights, and who are specialised in their field should be ensured to keep their tenure.
  7. When one looks at the depiction of violence in the national media, particularly on TV, it is seen that in “women’s programmes” that are geared to receive the highest ratings, incorrect information is given, women are misled, violence is not questioned, and women are judged. These programmes and other broadcasts of the kind should be questioned and exposed.
  8. In this regard, we state that we will support those who make programs and broadcast news that empower women so that it can motivate the media sector to a more positive approach.
  9. The training of broadcasting staff is important. Publishing/Broadcasting organisations and NGOs should be contacted, and gender classes should be given in press courses.
  10. The media and women’s organisations need to cooperate when it comes to conveying to the public information, documents, statistic and research amassed by women’s organisations working to end violence against women.
  11. Concepts such as tradition, honour, sexuality, sexual violence and sexual freedom are often defined incorrectly in the public sphere and many other areas, and they cannot be pinned down within the framework of combating violence against women, and turned against women. Clarifying these concepts as follows and using these definitions will strengthen the struggle on behalf of women:
    • ‘Honour’ does not have a positive definition. Honour is a strong, widespread, organised and internalised patriarchal control mechanism over the bodies and sexualities of women. It leads to sexual violence and death, it destroys sexual freedom, and limits and standardises our sexual life. Honour prevents women from speaking out when their human rights are violated, it consolidates men’s power and status, and turns female bodies into objects through this manner.
    • Customs and traditions strengthen the idea of honour, but do not express it on their own. Honour crimes are a reality in all areas of the world and in Turkey, so they cannot be solely ascribed to Kurdish society.
    • Sexual freedom is the right of women to derive emotional and sexual pleasure removed from the idea of honour and tradition, and for women to have the final say over her body and sexuality. Sexual freedom is one of the most important facets of women’s freedom, and it means being open to different sexualities.
    • The heterosexist perspective of the women’s movement in Turkey should be questioned, alliances should be made with gay organisations for gay individuals to be more visible, and experiences must be shared.
  12. Women’s organisations should work to establish women’s commissions or women’s rights centres in their local bar associations. The commissions created should work with the feminist method and be comprised of female lawyers.
  13. Mayors should work with women’s organisations to create work groups amongst law enforcement, healthcare providers, gendarmerie, the religious affairs bureau, doctors’ union, universities etc. These work groups should focus on training on gender, violence against women, and current legislation.
  14. Related public institutions should take the necessary care to resolve the issues regarding the implementation of Law 4320, and administrative precautions should be taken. In-work training should be given to law enforcement officers, doctors, judges, prosecutors and lawyers in this regard.
  15. Women should be informed about their rights in their mother tongue. Education in one’s first language should also be supported.
  16. Efforts should be made to form a “Department to Fight Violence Against Women and Sexual Crimes” within the police force. The Ministry of the Interior should be petitioned, and if the new Turkish Criminal Procedure Code passes into legislature, the Ministry of Justice should be petitioned.
  17. The regulation of Family Courts should be issued immediately and the courts set up in every province.
  18. As part of the new Public Law, women and men should participate equally when it comes to local authorities.
  19. In light of the Right to Information law, CEDAW’s report on Turkey, the results of the applications submitted to the Constitutional Court regarding changes to Law 4320, and the draft of the Directorate General on the Status of Women (KSGM) regulations should be made available to women’s organisations and their suggestions taken into account.
  20. Views of women’s organisations should be taken into account during the preparation of the KSGM regulation, and it should be accepted at once.
  21. Legislative articles that are discriminatory towards women should be opposed on the basis of them being contrary to the Constitution, and the 10th article of the Civil Law regarding the division of property in a marriage which foresees the labours of 17 million married women before January 1, 2002 to be seized should be changed immediately as per the demands of women’s organisations, and the 40.000 petitions which were collected as a result of the campaign to realise this and presented to Parliament should be responded to immediately.
  22. The Law on Criminal Execution should be evaluated and revised in favour of women.

The prevention of sexual violence against women will be made possible first by the solidarity and organised efforts of women. Us women who came together at the seventh of these assemblies which are one of the most important tools in the organised struggle against violence have decided to form work groups coordinated by the Communication Centre so that information, documents, and experiences can be shared amongst women’s organisations, a shared language can be created, training programmes can be prepared and implemented, communication can be made faster and continuous, and for the above mentioned decisions to be followed-up and realised.

We want shelters, as well as a time when shelters will not be necessary