Skip to main content

The General Assembly of Women’s Shelters and Solidarity/Counselling Centres published its report

By 26 Mart 2013No Comments

We have we gathered for the 15th time on 12-13-14th of November in Özdere (Izmir) as women and women’s organizations that struggle with violence against women, carry out activities for providing victims with shelters and solidarity centres so that they can build up a new life without violence.

The struggle with violence against women cannot be replaced by “Charitableness”!

We have we gathered for the 15th time on 12-13-14th of November in Özdere (Izmir) as women and women’s organizations that struggle with violence against women, carry out activities for providing victims with shelters and solidarity centres so that they can build up a new life without violence.

This year’s Assembly took place in the following context: Despite of the international conventions and legislation, the policies on the elimination of violence against women were not put into practice. The number of women’s murders weren’t reduced. There were legal attempts impose control upon our bodies by restricting abortion and C-section. There were pressures to restrict us with our traditional roles imposed within the family and inside the house to reinforce the family. Women protesters were detained and imprisoned. Our attempts to get involved in politics were prevented. Lastly, the sociologists and social workers, who showed their solidarity with women at İŞTAR Women’s Counselling Centre in Mersin, were detained. Women’s confidential reports were seized. This violation is against the basic principles of the solidarity centres and shelters. We declare to public opinion that we as the participant of the Assembly will go to Mersin closely follow up this case and build solidarity with women from İŞTAR.  

Women are charged with the services that public officials are supposed to provide.

The claim on “the empowerment of family” means more unpaid labour for women!

The mentalities that imprison women in the family and de-individualize women lead to violence and actual inequality. The empowerment of family inversely correlates with women’s liberation. Because the empowerment of family signifies that the state doesn’t fulfil its duties but confines women to a private sphere and defines them entirely as mothers within the family. The whole range of examples shows that there is a perception that the family has the priority, not the women. The word “family” is preferred over “woman” when naming the ministry, the laws on the struggle with violence against women are put into practice with the mentality of “protection of the family”. The authorities persistently avoid using the word shelter and call them as “guest house”, more and more in the TV series the women are presented as a part of the family and the National Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) intervenes when other types of relationships are also represented.

Due to practices that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) have recently intensified, women who are organised are prevented, detained and arrested. This overshadows the legitimacy of women’s studies in the areas where particularly Kurdish women are working and causes women who are hardly able to leave their private areas be forced to return to their safe and holy families again.

The conservative mentality that glorifies and fetishes family goes hand in hand with neoliberal mentality that fetishes the market. The emptiness which is caused by the public expenditures that are curtailed and social policies is replaced by much more unpaid domestic labour of women. The same practice is available for social services. From this perspective, it should be known that our basic task, as women’s organizations, is not to fulfil the services that should be provided by the public institutions. For our works, our objective is to follow the policies and services that the public institutions have with a woman’s perspective, to raise public awareness on public opinion about the issue and to empower women’s struggle for liberation. 

Not the Guesthouse but SHELTER!

We observe the prevalence of a view that doesn’t represent women as individuals but tries to maintain women’s traditional position in the family in the counselling centres and shelters, which are the most important means of the struggle with violence against women. It is concluded that the approach will remain to exist since it is called “guesthouse” in lieu of “shelter” on the laws and legislation. All the units ranging from the Family Counselling Centres to the police stations that women subjected to violence apply to arbitrate between women and their husbands. Their attempt to arbitrate between men who commit violence and women subjected to violence in order to sustain the union of family invites the murder of women. Therefore, the practice should stop immediately.

While women are trying to overcome the violent experiences, they can’t find enough support in these centres to start independent lives. The support can’t even meet their basic needs for costs of transportation or houses. Moreover, they have to wait for months to get financial support. Instead of obtaining social, psychological and legal support, they are advised to be tolerant and satisfy their husbands under family counselling at various public institutions such as family guidance and counselling office. Few women who are able to pass through these intermediary bodies and reach a few shelters can’t receive legal support due to insufficiency of the personnel’s’ number and lack of budget and they can’t claim their rights. The services can’t ensure their continuity and prevalence. Their practices change considerably from place to place. It is possible that helpless women once again return the place in which they suffered from violence. As women who are struggling for the issue, politically active and experienced, we will relentlessly advocate that it should be named “shelter” and shelters shouldn’t be the places where women are regarded as the guests but they should be considered as the places where women and children strengthen with the aim of struggle against violence.

Our struggle for shelters is also to strengthen the systems by which women who do not stay in the shelters could be supported. Therefore, counselling centres are crucial. Some of the counselling centres which are managed by the municipalities face financial problems; moreover, they are left under the interrogation and pressure of security forces due to the fact that they don’t have common mentality with the government. We also witness the sustainability of partisan approaches on the distribution of fund which should be used for struggle with violence against women through development agencies. The non-transparent procedures, discriminatory attitudes of the evaluators on gender, unclearness of criteria for evaluation pose the obstacles to women’s and children’s use of the resources. In fact, one of the most important topics regarding the struggle with violence against women is budget. Because of the wrong usage of resources, the nurseries which are very substantial for women trying to create an alternative life without violence can’t be opened. Also, the request of women staying in the shelter for legal assistance is even refused. Hence, we recall to the office once again that the resources should be used for the struggle with violence against women.

We, as women who are struggling for the issue, are setting up a network of communication in order to monitor violence against women, regarding it as a gender-based issue and enable examples of good practices to diffuse. Thanks to the network of communication, we aim at increasing sharing of the experiences as well as the empowerment our solidarity.

Political obstacles come against the laws

Despite the changes in the laws, we observe that what we have gained cannot be put into practice as a result of the prevalence of liberal conservative politics. Although Istanbul Convent
ion and the Act No.6284 are in place, the number of shelters is insufficient, women staying in them cannot be provided with financial support. Additionally the public officials do not implement the Act and take necessary caution measures to protect women, either because they are now aware of the laws or because of their sexist views.

When the Act No.6284 was drafted, the demands put forward by women’s organizations have not been adequately met by the law. However, most issues that they have objected have been included. This is why we have been facing many problems about implementation of the law.

Due to the amendments in the administration of the Social Services and Child Protection Agency of Turkey (SHÇEK), the shelter application procedure has changed. In practice, settlement of women who applied for shelter can be done only by the police. However, it is really important to restructure “the first point of application” centres, complete vocational training of personnel in charge of dealing with domestic violence against women. Also by taking the extensive number of applications into account, the continuity of solidarity centres must be ensured which are administered by the municipalities and women’s organizations and their existing social works should be reinforced. We call for the ministry to comply with its legal duties and train all relevant public officials on gender equality and women’s rights including the police, civilian authority, judges and prosecutors who have responsibilities under the act no.6284. We also emphasize the need for reconstruction of the Ministry under the name of “Ministry of Women and Equality” with an adequate budget for providing necessary services.

Violence Prevention, Monitoring and Coordination Centres suggested by the women’s organisations are quite different organisations than the Violence Prevention and Monitoring Centres (ŞÖNİMs) established by the law in terms of their administration, practices and perspective. Such centres should be reorganised to meet the criteria suggested by the women’s organisations. Pilot implementations show that ŞÖNİMs have been structured in a way to act as supervisory and monitoring bodies which can intervene excessively into activities of the women’s organizations, the municipalities and all public shelters. In fact, the protection and support mechanisms used by different entities ranging from independent women’s organisations to local authorities differ in terms of their characteristics. New bylaw which will come into force should take this issue into consideration and should not allow practices contrary to international standards which might leave the municipalities and women’s organizations dysfunctional by introducing extreme control and monitoring procedures. 

Women suffering from sexual violence are left alone

As it appears in the rape cases followed up by women’s organizations and feminists, women subjected to sexual violence are left alone. They can’t get public and private support. Hence, a lawsuit can’t be filled or it is suspended. Since sexual crime is committed in the closed areas and also eye witness and sometimes physical evidence can’t be found, a fair judgment cannot be reached the lawsuits generally result in exculpation of man who committed violence. The sexist attitudes that emerge at every stage of evidence collecting and the lawsuit must be stopped.

As women’s organisations and feminists, we require that the legal framework and literature should be improved to adopt the principle of “women’s testimonies should be treated as real” as far as the cases of sexual violence against women are concerned. We have set an agenda for creating an event in which we can discuss our monitoring mechanisms and feminist approaches to law.

Immigrant women suffer from multi-layered violence and discrimination

Except for women victims of human trafficking, violence and discrimination that immigrant and refugee women suffer from cannot be brought to the agenda. And the only support given to the women victims of human trafficking providing shelters, no long-term solutions are being offered. The counselling centres are not given any information about the women who are sent out to satellite towns. However there is a lot of news in the international press informing that many Syrian refugee women and young girls who had to flee from their homeland due to civil war and came to Turkey are suffering from sexual harassment and girls are forced to get married in return for money. It is a serious problem that women in the refugee camps cannot obtain adequate support in relation to violence that they are encountered.


1) We find the policies of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies insufficient in defending the women rights. We demand the establishment of the Ministry of Women and Equality instead with an adequate budget.

2) Women’s access to the support systems and information about their rights should be facilitated. The support units should be opened in accessible areas, units of application should be established and the services which women can benefit should be visible on the notice boards of places where women frequently visit like local government offices, hospitals, and health care centres.

3) Legislations enacted in order to struggle with violence against women, such as the Act No.6284 and Istanbul Convention cannot be fully implemented as the law enforcing personnel is not yet aware of them, the vocational trainings have been inadequate, and making of compatible laws has been neglected. For instance; an article of the Act No.6284 regarding the secrecy of identity credentials of women and children who were exposed to violence cannot be put into practice because of its contradiction to laws of population registration. 

4) The fact that the members of IŞTAR Women’s Counselling Centre at the Municipality of Akdeniz were arrested is a clear example of an attempt to prevent women’s political activity. The fact that Canan Arın, one of the founders of Mor Çatı and the volunteers of Antalya Women’s Solidarity Foundation was detained is a clear attempt to annihilate feminist women’s freedom of expression. The policies of suppressing women who defend gender equality and struggle for violence against women must be ended immediately.

5) It is necessary to create organizational structures which are sponsored by local authorities in order to monitor the implementation of laws. It will be possible to monitor whether the laws are implemented and to detect women’s problems on the scene through local practices. The local institutions that will monitor the implementation should collaborate with independent women’s organisations which are sensitive to the issue of gender inequalities.

6) The rules of the shelters should be redefined in a way that they won’t pose obstacles to the empowerment of women who live there and make life difficult for women who work there.

7) The children in the shelters should also be treated as individuals, the shelters should be furnished to meet their needs and a social worker should be employed to support them.

8) The continuity of the services in the Shelters and Counselling Centres should be assured, and the services should be empowering the women and children.

9) The administrative staff of shelters, violence intervention centres, and counselling centres; regardless of their rank should be appointed amongst women employees who are qualified for and sensitive to gender equality issues regardless of their status. The workers should be granted seven weeks of paid annual leave, get supervision on a regular basis, and be able to attend trainings on trauma or crisis management if and when necessary . 

10) It poses a problem that the shelters in the local administration are affiliated with governmental entities like Directorate of Health, Directorate of Culture or Directorate of Social Affairs. It is required to have a separate authorized unit which comb
ines the responsibilities of shelters, counselling centres and equality offices under the same roof and is sensitive about societal gender inequalities.  Employees of such an office should also consist of women who are sensitive about societal gender inequalities.

11) For certain jobs within the Ministry and the local authorities, quotas should be introduced for women who live in shelters or has applied to solidarity centres.

12) Since the struggle with violence against women should be integrated, the coordination among the units should be assured so that the women who need support are not victimized once again by these institutions. 

13) The right to counsel should be granted to women in the cases of women as much as those of children.

14) Since the information about the women who get support is confidential, it is necessary to get permission for interrogations about the shelters and Counselling/Solidarity centres, and the inquiries and investigations should be conducted by taking vulnerability of women into account.

15) It is necessary to empower the media which is sensitive to the issues of gender inequalities.

16) The activities of shelters and counselling centres are limited due to the inadequate resource allocation. As these entities are important places in the struggle of violence against women, the budgets allocated to these entities should be increased to empower women and children. Also additional sources of income should be made available to them in case of necessity and more personnel should be appointed.

17) In the trials of sexual crimes, women’s testimonies should be given priority. In order to avoid the re-victimization of women, “Sexual Assault/ Rape Crisis Centres” should be established where health and legal support would be provided for women on a 24-hour basis, under a single roof and with appointed expert professionals such as prosecutors and police.

18) Whereas the article on the Act on Municipality stipulates that the municipalities with minimum population of 50,000 could open the shelters, a new draft law on Metropolitan Municipalities suggests increasing this number to 100,000. This high threshold is unacceptable in Turkey where five women a day are killed because of male violence. Moreover, this threshold is far above international standards. The number of shelters should be increased; shelters should be improved as much as possible to empower women and children, and supportive social policies should be developed for women who do not stay in the shelters but suffer from violence. 

19) Women’s studies in the local authorities shouldn’t allow women to be underestimated and ignored due to their unpaid labour. It should be allowed for the fact that the studies in the institutions are public liabilities and necessary resources should be granted for women volunteers.

20) The situation of women refugees coming from Syria indicates once again that women rank 1st among the groups which are most influenced by war. In order to struggle against violence without borders, we need legal regulations and centres where women refugees suffering from violence are provided with shelters in which there are counsellors and translators as well as members of staff who are sensitive about gender inequality issues.


Leave a Reply