Concluding Declaration of the 18th Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Solidarity Centers
As women’s organizations fighting against male violence towards women, feminists, and staff working in town councils and institutions under the Ministry of Family and Social Policies working to prevent violence against women, we came together for the 18th time in Ankara this year between November 14-16 to share our knowledge and experience and to strengthen women’s solidarity against male violence. This year’s Assembly’s main subject was “The Collective Force of Women Against Male Violence: Avenues of Solidarity and Resistance”. 325 women from 41 cities, 60 women’s and LGBTI organizations, and 53 public institutions attended the congress.
By means of seminars and workshops, we shared information and our experiences regarding the means of fighting against male violence, how we create avenues of solidarity and resistance, and how to expand these avenues.
The shortcomings of Centers for the Prevention and Monitoring of Violence (ŞÖNİMs) which were set up to provide support and monitoring services regarding issues in implementing the Law No. 6284 regarding the Protection of Family and Prevention of Violence Against Women, the prevention of male violence against women, and the effective usage of all precautions was one of the leading topics of discussion of this year’s congress.
The practical problems regarding the Law No. 6284, particularly those concerning the confidentiality of ID and address information, measures against stalking, and the granting of temporary custody, still continue. Institutions which have a responsibility to keep records confidential over the online e-government system such as the Registry Office, Ministry of Education, and the Social Security Institutions experience setbacks that put the lives of many women and children at risk.
ŞÖNİMs were founded in 2012 to provide 24/7 shelter and psychosocial, legal, medical, occupational and educational support for women and children that were victims of violence, but they are unable to meet all these criteria. The number of staff and the competency of existing staff who can respond to the needs of women wanting to escape violence is inadequate, and the centers themselves are difficult to reach. This shortcoming on the part of ŞÖNİMs have caused police stations to be almost the sole institution in which women who have been subjected to violence can seek help.
For the proper implementation of the Law No. 6284, a system in which public institutions can work effectively and in coordination must be set up urgently. Shelters based on feminist principles and methods, emergency phone lines open 24 hours a day and exclusively for women who have suffered violence, and counseling centers that are widespread and accessible are key features of this system. States who are party to CEDAW and the Istanbul Convention are required to provide the necessary precautions to prevent every kind of violence and discrimination against women, including legislative regulations. The companion book to the Istanbul Convention references the concluding activity report by the European Council Taskforce to Fight Violence Against Women Including Domestic Violence, dated 2008 (EG-TFV 2008), which has set out minimum standards and requirements to be met, including the opening of a counseling/support center for each 50.000 women of the population, a sufficient number of shelters to exist in each region, and a free-of-charge phone support line, open 24/7 and able to service in each language spoken within the country, to be set up.
It is a requirement, not an option, for current and future shelters and counseling centers to work within the feminist method. These shelters, counseling centers, and emergency phone lines are one of the accomplishments of the feminist struggle, and their focus must be not on the family but on women, and they should provide support that does not focus on protecting the family but instead gives strength and freedom to women in a non-discriminatory manner.
The acceptance criteria for certain shelters, particularly those run by the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, excludes LBTI and disabled women. Lesbian and bisexual women are forced to hide their sexual identities while applying for shelter in these centers so as not to be discriminated against, and this makes the violence they suffer owing to their sexual orientation and gender identity invisible.
The current climate of war and conflict not only affects women directly but also changes the means of violence against women, and while it destroys social peace, it reinforces hate speech based on loathing of women. The displaying of naked bodies of murdered women by various means and the usage of the female identity and anatomy as a means of humiliation and insult emerge during times of conflict as the visible face of violence against women. Under these circumstances, it becomes more and more difficult with each passing day for women and women’s organizations to fight against violence.
Women who have been directly or indirectly affected by war and conflict cannot access mechanisms to fight domestic violence. As well as the physical inaccessibility of these services, the lack of trust in government institutions also leaves women in a conundrum. This prevents women’s organizations from acting in solidarity with women who have suffered male violence. In areas of military conflict, the Law No.6284 is rendered useless, which is the most significant example of this kind. In such areas, war and conflict narrows the scope of women’s organizations creating policies to fight male violence.
As women and members of women’s and LGBTI organizations who have come together at the 18th Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Counseling Centers, we reiterate the following demands to combat the male violence that threatens our living spaces:
- In the current system, the social services offered by the state as remedies for violence against women is reduced to ŞÖNİMs and shelters, which does not meet women’s needs. The inadequacies of the social system must be established, and a social service network that is catered towards and centered around the individual needs of women, one that is widespread, accessible, and efficient, must be put in place immediately.
- Practices at shelters under the Ministry of Family and Social Policies and first-step centers which are caused by the patriarchal approach and the bureaucratic system and which keep women under supervision and weaken them must be abandoned,
- Widespread and accessible counseling and solidarity centers in which women who have suffered violence and are trying to get away from violence can receive psychological, social, and legal support outside of shelters and where they can share their experiences and strengthen each other must be set up,
- Cooperation centers working from a feminist perspective and method must be opened, and existing and future shelters must work in cooperation with these centers,
- The Dial-183 Family, Women, Children and Disabled People Social Services Information Helpline which is ran by the Ministry of Family and Social Policies purports to help various segments of society but falls short when it comes to fighting against women, with this in mind, a special emergency helpline for women who have been victims of violence where they can receive help 24 hours a day must be opened,
- The funding set aside for shelters should be available to not only the women staying at ministry-run shelters but also those ran by local authorities, and the existing funds should not be cut back using “abuse of power” as an excuse,
- One of the leading reasons preventing women from setting out on a life without violence is the fact that they cannot take on paid employment because they are not provided with accessible and free of charge childcare. The free of charge childcare included in the Law No. 6284 is still not open to many women. Nurseries for children between the ages of 0-3 and 3-6 should be increased in number, and the necessary adjustments should be made regarding their opening hours in line with women’s working hours,
- All the personnel working in the field of violence against women, particularly those staffed at shelters and ŞÖNİMs, must be provided with supervision and in-work training, and these training sessions should focus on discrimination based on gender, and towards immigrants, LGBTI individuals, and disabled people.
- Many local councils which provide shelters can only accept women into shelters through ŞÖNİMs, even though the “Women’s Guesthouses Regulation” which regulates how shelters work also outlines how to apply to shelters in article 11, and states that women can apply to the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, ŞÖNİMs or other public bodies in the same field, or law enforcement. This practice, which has no legal basis and prevents councils from accepting women into shelters through their own information centers must cease immediately,
- Public servants who do not fulfill their duties in combating violence against women as defined in their legal duties and the Law No. 6284 and the Istanbul Convention should be subjected to a thorough investigation and penalized according to the relevant regulations,
- Every institution women apply to when subjected to violence (ŞÖNİMs, police stations, hospitals, provincial branches of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, counseling centers) and shelters must be accessible for disabled people,
- For disabled people to be able to access information about violence against women, a text message helpline should be established for hearing impaired women, and documents in Braille must be published for visually impaired women,
- Plans for specialized shelters for women who are LBTI, disabled, sex workers, refugees, immigrants, or asylum seekers, or those with mental illnesses that would not prevent them from integrating into the community brings with it discrimination, stigmatization, isolation and humiliation. Instead of specialized shelters, mechanisms that support co-existence and solidarity where women who have been subjected to violence can get help without any discrimination should be put in place,
- Provincial coordination meetings that were held regularly in past years, in which public bodies responsible for fighting violence against women and women’s organizations working in the field came together, are no longer held in many regions, and their absence is felt. For a more effective resistance against male violence, these meetings should be held regularly in every province, and women’s organizations experienced on the subject should be invited,
- As a result of the current climate of war, millions of refugee women cannot obtain basic human needs such as healthcare, food, and shelter, owing to the lack of state policy on the matter and the government’s refusal to fulfill its obligations set out by international agreements. They are subjected to harassment and rape, and forced into prostitution, slave labour, child marriage and human trafficking. The state must act immediately to prevent these crimes and fulfill its obligation to meet the basic needs of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers,
- Support mechanisms for refugee, immigrant, and asylum seeker women who have been subjected to violence should be put in place with regard to article 59 of the Istanbul Convention that regulates residency status, and article 60 of the same agreement which regulates gender-based asylum applications,
- Blockades must be lifted, war and conflict must come to an end, peaceful policies in which women are a party must be put on the agenda immediately, and a lasting state of peace ensured,
- According to the Law No. 2827 regarding Family Planning which came into use in 1983, women are free to terminate their pregnancies up until ten weeks. However, in practice, many state hospitals refuse to offer optional abortions. Restrictive policies which limit the access to safe and free of charge abortion services cause harm to women’s health and lead to deaths. Therefore, the practical obstacles in the way of free and safe abortions for all women must be lifted, and those creating such obstacles must be punished according to law,
- Women and men must be informed on birth control and healthy and safe sexual intercourse by means of public service broadcasts and the like, and these broadcasts should highlight that birth control is not solely the woman’s responsibility and the responsibility lies equally in men too. Women should be provided with free access to birth control,
- The medications required for a medically induced abortion, which is a safe method of abortion, are included in the World Health Organization’s essential drugs list, however, they are banned in Turkey. This ban must be lifted,
- Precautions must be taken against gender and sexuality-based discrimination against inmates in jails, and women and LGBT individuals in jails must be informed as to their legal rights, as well as provided with the necessary accommodation, employment, and psychosocial support to continue their lives following their release.
Components of the 18th Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Counseling/Solidarity Centers
- Adana Women’s Solidarity Center (AKDAM)
- Adıyaman Association of Women and Life (AKAYDER)
- Antalya Women’s Counseling and Solidarity Association
- Aydın Söke Women’s Solidarity Association
- Bodrum Women’s Solidarity Association
- Buca Evka-1 Women, Culture and Solidarity Association (BEKEV)
- Çanakkale Association for the Utilization of Women’s Handicrafts (ELDER)
- Çiğli Evka-2 Women’s Cultural Association (ÇEKEV)
- Diyarbakır Selis Women’s Association
- Diyarbakır Ergani Selis Women’s Association
- Diyarbakır Ceren Women’s Association
- Fethiye Free Women and Life Association
- Rainbow Women’s Association
- İzmir Women’s Solidarity Association
- Foundation for Women’s Solidarity Ankara
- Women’s Solidarity Foundation (KADAV)
- Mersin Independent Women’s Association (BKD)
- Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation
- Mor Salkım Women’s Solidarity Foundation
- Muş Women’s Association (MUKADDER)
- Muş Women’s Roof Association
- Nevşehir Women’s Association
- Urfa Living Space Women’s Solidarity Association