A new tool for AKP to restrict LGBTIQ+ community?

A new committee was founded at the Turkish Parliament recently which has a mandate to research violence against women. It seems, however, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is poised to use the new committee to further their anti-LGBTIQ+ agenda. During the last meeting of the committee an AKP deputy revealed that intention by suggesting to contact film producers in order to restrict the visibility of LGBTI+ people on screen.

The Parliamentary Commission to Research Violence Against Women was founded on March 9 and held two meetings on April 21 and 22. The commission now features on our daily agenda. İYİ Party deputy Şenol Sunat delivered the opening speech at the commission’s first meeting. He proposed certain participatory, pluralistic and democratic criteria for task distribution within the committee. His proposal was refused and we can easily predict what will happen in the future.  

Şenol Sunat had suggested that opposition deputies be present during the distribution of tasks. Objection came from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) members. This gives an idea of the commission report the AKP members will write. The AKP’s Öznur Çalık was elected as chair of the commission and said “We called the opposition parties out of politeness.” The AKP members elected one another for other positions and the commission ceased to be a parliamentary commission. It now largely serves as an AKP commission.

In fact, there was no need for a new commission aimed at researching and analyzing violence against women. The Istanbul Convention’s sub-convention, which was founded by the Parliamentary Commission on Gender-Based Equal Opportunity, had completed its work and prepared its report, which, two years later, still hasn’t been published. Another commission with the same title had previously been established in 2014. That commission had also worked and prepared its report though their report wasn’t published either.

Commissions are formed, deputies and all the experts, institutions and the NGOs they invite get together and start working but the Office of the Speaker of Parliament does not bother to publish their reports. Proposals in the reports are not implemented and the public never learns the contents of the reports. Such experiences involuntarily lead us to believe that the fight against violence is just for show and serves the purpose of curbing the public’s reaction to violence.

There are also good and functional examples in the parliamentary commissions’ work against violence directed at women. For instance, the parliamentary commission founded in 2005 with the title “Parliamentary Research Commission for Fighting Against Violence Directed at Women and for the Prevention of Honor Killings” came up with a very valuable report. The Prime Ministry Regulation numbered 2006/17 was one of the results of this report. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was then Prime Minister and the Regulation was published with his signature. This Regulation is still in force. Had it been implemented, there would have been no need for a new commission. The Regulation’s description of honor killings sheds light on the violence happening today, it is the same male violence in both cases.
There is one difference though: a family assembly used to convene and decide that a female member of the family should die. They would coax a minor in the family into committing the crime. When the Regulation of 2006 was implemented and the instigator of the crime began to receive a heavier sentence than the killer, families ceased to commission their underage children for murders.

Such families are probably commissioning husbands to kill their wives today and this would provide a sound explanation for the high number of women which are frequently killed in Turkey at present. Were the murders committed by men against their (ex)wives who divorced them or have an ongoing divorce case to be investigated and prosecuted in accordance with this regulation, we might get interesting results.

Let me get back to the commissions. We also have an infamous “Preventing Divorce” Commission in parliament. I have frequently written about it, so I won’t go into details here. This commission has been working like an extension of the government since 2016. Its report has almost encouraged attacks on women’s rights and gains. Taking this into account, we can surmise that the new commission will be similar to the divorce commission. Perhaps the newborn commission will pursue the work of the divorce commission that was left incomplete. It is also possible for the new commission to come up with proposals that will undermine Article 6284’s protective and preventive measures.

The government hasn’t officially announced it, but there are rumors that there may be an Ankara Convention or Agreement that will serve as an alternative to the Istanbul Convention. Perhaps the new parliamentary commission will prepare the draft of such a Convention. Violence against women and male violence are global problems that beg global solutions. Violence, violation of human rights and human rights law are universal. It is very hard to understand the logic behind Turkey’s withdrawal from universal values. This can only be a policy for those people who don’t want to prevent male violence; quite the opposite, they may manipulate everything to feed male violence.

Perhaps it will be the task of the new commission to make violence invisible and protect domestic violence. This may sound harsh and prejudiced but I doubt the result will change. The minutes of the commission’s second meeting on 22 April give the same impression. The AKP’s Balıkesir deputy, Pakize Mutlu Aydemir said, “Every fraction of society must be heard including the organizations that are against the Istanbul Convention.”

Those who deliberately said nothing about withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention were eager to lend an ear to the opponents of the Istanbul Convention. They also decided to hear all the AKP deputies who are already in the parliament. Tuba Vural Çokal, who left İYİ Party to join the AKP, also supported this decision. She proposed that the chair of the commission Öznur Çalık should be listened to. She also said, “I have been frequently subjected to violence on social media and I want to speak on this issue as a parliamentarian.”

The commission discussed proposals and ideas belonging to TV producers, directors and scriptwriters, including Gülseren Budayıcıoğlu. We can call this, “hearing the views and opinions in shows and films.” I want to discuss two odd suggestions. The AKP’s Konya deputy, Hacı Ahmet Özdemir, held a long speech at the meeting in which he said, “we should do something about that ugliness we see in films and shows - I don’t want to go into details - there are inspiring and encouraging scenes in films about - though I don’t like this terminology but it has become popular - different sexual orientations. Perhaps we should talk to the media about this […] You know the Family Law Regulation of the Ottoman State, it served as a very important basis in the codification of the Islamic Law.”

Hacı Ahmet Özdemir was referring to the necessity of contacting film producers in order to restrict the visibility of LGBTI+ people. The commission, which is tasked with preventing male violence, seems like it will be keen on preventing the visibility of people the commission members disapprove of.

A similar proposal came from the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) Konya deputy, Esin Kara, who underlined the importance of the sexual identity awareness of pre-school children. She emphasized the necessity of acting in accordance with the Education Ministry. We can predict that this commission is getting ready to issue decisions that will be rather limiting in the domain of sexual orientation and identity.

In the meantime, we ought to focus on Hacı Ahmet Özdemir’s mentality. He talked about the Family Law Regulation of the Ottoman State, which dates to back to 1917. It was never implemented because the War of Independence broke out. Violence against women as a subject of law is a new concept on a global scale. How can a hundred-year-old text become part of a solution to this devastating violence problem? That deputy never uttered a word about violence against women during his speech.
Perhaps the least harmful outcome would be for the parliamentary commission to not fulfill its job. A dangerous step would be if the commission eliminates the protective measures which is covered by Article 6284 of the Law to Protect the Family and Prevent Violence against Women. Another dangerous step could be the preparation of a so-called “local and national” convention that can be inspired by the hundred-year-old Ottoman Family Law Regulation.

Or perhaps it will resemble the text which Russia proposed to Poland and Hungary. One last possibility would be a report that sounds like the declaration of the Women’s Unit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. I have no doubt that this commission’s report will be one of social engineering and will produce a mask for the male violence against women instead of preventing it. It’s unnecessary for opposition deputies and the representatives of independent women’s organizations to be heard by this commission. It would only further contribute to this tragicomedy.