Family court judge Dursun Genel was among those proposing changes in Turkey’s 6284 law on violence. The Turkish parliament’s Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (KEFEK) invited the judge to share his thoughts with regards the laws on violence and the problems related to their enforcement.
The law’s fifth article, which involves injunctions, is judge Genel’s main objection point. Yet as attested by court records, the judge objects to preventive measures not because he impartially assesses enforcement-related problems, but due to his own personal views.
His explanation for not making an injunction decision was the following: “it would cause a great deal of trouble to families just because thirty women get killed every month.” How many femicides would “suffice” to judge Genel? In October, 36 women were killed by men. In the first 10 months of 2019, 390 femicides occurred. Women of all ages suffered patriarchal murders because preventive and protective measures were not enforced. Both because their access to injunctions was limited and because injunction decisions were not applied effectively.
While these facts are known to all, many families nonetheless object to preventive measures, emphasizing “male comfort”. For instance, the president of the Turkey’s Rights and Equality Institution Süleyman Sayan recently said that violence suspect who is sent away from home has his “honor offended”. In contrast, he has never stated that violence perpetrated against women is a violation of the law and offends female honor.
When judge Genel refers to “families”, he actually means “men”. Whilst making his point, the judge uses an example from a case he is currently dealing with. The case has to do with a man who beats his wife because she wasn’t quick enough to bring him tea after the breaking of his fast during the month of Ramadan. In her complaint, the woman said she had been pushed around, that her hair had been pulled and that she had been insulted.
Yet it is explicitly stated in the judge’s transcript that he did not consider this case to involve violence. He even said he “understood” the man’s behavior. When People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP Filiz Kerestecioğlu asked the judge how he “understand” the situation, he responded saying he had “reached an understanding” following “excuses” from the suspect. That is what one calls “picking sides” not “understanding”. The judge’s denying of the violence clearly demonstrates he sides with the suspect, not the law.
Dursun Genel criticizes the preventive sections of the law against violence on the grounds that it is too problematic to enforce. While the law recognizes 4 categories of violence, namely physical, economic, psychological and sexual, the judge opposes isolating suspects for violence other than physical.
But bearing in mind, he failed to acknowledge the occurrence in the case we previously discussed, it is unlikely he will accept physical abuse as violence.
Moreover, he also states the necessity of evidence of medical reports, thereby minimizing the violence in the event where women have not suffered severe injuries.
Judge Genel offered to trim the law against violence, condensing its 11 sections into a reduced number of sections. In order for the reader to understand the implications of such a proposal, I shall outline the 11 sections below:
Entitled preventative injunction decisions by the judge, the first paragraph of the law’s fifth article is as follows:
(1) Regarding those who engage in violence, the judge can rule to invoke one or several of the preventative injunctions listed below:
a) No longer words consisting of threats, insults, humiliation will be used against the injured party.
b) Immediate removal of the suspect from the shared household and assigning the household to the injured party.
c) Staying away from the protected party, their place of residence, school or business.
d) If there was a shared custody decision to establish personal relations with a child, that the meetings are to be done with a chaperone, or limiting personal relations or removing it completely.
e) Should it be necessary, the protected party staying away from their children, even if not victims to violence, with the right to maintain relations with relatives and friends reserved.
f) Not hurting the personal belongings and house furniture of the protected party.
(g) Not disturbing the protected party using communication devices or other means.
h) Handing in weapons kept at home or carried on person, to authorities.
i) Not using alcohol, drugs or stimulants near the vicinity of protected party, not going near the protected party while under the influence, if there is addiction, treatment to be provided, including hospitalization.
j) To apply to a health institute for examination or treatment and the carrying out of treatment.
After years battling patriarchal violence, women have learned everything about male justice. In law terms, every situation was provided for. Each injunction was carefully crafted. If the package is trimmed and condensed, it will be easier for judges to declare that given cases do not correspond to the injunctions.
It was precisely for this reason that each injunction was written out separately. The judge is cunning, he knows that by making fewer points, he won’t have to rule for any injunctions.
The judge also contests the preventive nature of the law. But rather than the punishment, the most important role of the law is to prevent. By objecting to preventive measures, the judge is jeopardizing the fight against violence.
And judge Dursun Genel is not the only one to harbor such views.
Violence will only be reduced through the full enforcement of already existing legal provisions. The discourse of opposition to these laws that is embodied by Dursun Genel only undermines the fight against violence.