Various women organizations serving domestic violence victims have said that their helplines have had more calls since people began staying at home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Since last Monday, the number of women calling our emergency helpline with a complaint of battery has increased. For example, some women who used to call [us] for general consultancy are now calling and saying ‘I have been battered and cannot leave the house; what should I do?’ Spending more time at home leads to an increase in violence,” Canan Güllü, the president of the Women Associations of Turkey, told daily Hürriyet on March 24.
Güllü said that they had contacted the Family Ministry regarding the steps that need to be taken to curb domestic violence cases during this self-isolation period.
“Once the quarantine period was over in China, the divorce rates had spiked at a record rate. Such a situation would not happen in our country, because once the divorce process is initiated in Turkey, women start to face more violence. So, measures need to be adopted as soon as possible,” she said.
Gülsüm Kav, an activist who co-founded the Istanbul-based women’s NGO We Will Stop Femicides, has said that authorities need to create an emergency plan to stop domestic violence during this period.
“We know that women are mostly murdered at their houses, by their relatives. Since Turkey has been dealing with coronavirus, 10 women have been murdered by men; eight at their houses and two at workplaces. It is apparent that the virus of violence, which is a public health problem as big as coronavirus, is on the rise during this period,” she said.
Kav called on the government officials to remind the public that domestic violence victims will be protected no matter what the current agenda of the country is. “We believe that [officials] need to make announcements emphasizing that women are not alone regarding domestic violence and they will not neglect this issue administrative- and judiciary-wise,” she said.
Anita Bhatia, the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Women, had previously said that while social isolation is an important protective measure against the coronavirus, “we also recognize that it provides an opportunity for abusers to unleash more violence.”
According to an annual reported by We Will Stop Femicide, at least 474 women were killed in Turkey in 2019. The country has one of the worst records in the world in terms of violence against women, with experts saying that Turkish authorities fail to offer women proper protection.
Experts also criticize the Turkish judiciary, saying it gives the judges significant powers and provisions allowing them to reduce sentences of men imposing violence on women.