Turkish minister under fire for saying spike in violence against women 'at tolerable levels'

Turkish Family and Social Services Minister Derya Yanık has said that the increase in cases of violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic was "tolerable," prompting outrage on social media.

Duvar English

Turkish Family and Social Services Minister Derya Yanık was slammed nationwide for saying during a May 20 meeting that the increase in cases of violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic had been "tolerable."

"The number of violence cases against women was 19,582 in January 2020, which increased in tolerable levels in February and March, and a significant drop in April," Yanık said. 

The minister's statement is an extension of the government rhetoric that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's withdrawal of Turkey from the Istanbul Convention on March 20 had in fact decreased violence against women. 

Officially the "Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence," the international document was condemned by conservative circles in Turkey for protecting the rights of "all genders," an expression that allegedly encourages homosexuality. 

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu had said about a month after the withdrawal that femicides had decreased by 26 percent, while women's organizations maintained that the only reason for a decrease in reports of violence was a decrease in women who reported their experiences.

'Government's mentality encourages violence'

Yanık's statement prompted outrage nationwide, with the hashtag "Derya Yanık resign" trending on Twitter shortly after her statement was made public. 

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Ankara deputy Yıldırım Kaya said that the minister was encouraging the public to tolerate violence against women, a phenomenon that he said was on the rise both at homes and in the streets. 

“Can violence against women be prevented in a country where the government has such a mentality? Could disincentivizing policy be created?"

Good (İYİ) Party Deputy Gizem Albaş condemned the minister's statements and urged her to resign, saying that it was the minister's statement that was intolerable. 

"We will not accept even one woman being subject to violence by a man, let alone tolerate it," Albaş said. 

'Tolerable' as a statistical measure

Upon widespread criticism, Yanık attempted to justify her statement by saying that she used "tolerable" as a statistical measure. 

"It's nefarious to misinterpret the word 'tolerable' which I used to say that the increase [in violence against women] was not completely proportionate to the tensions created by the stress of the pandemic," Yanık said. 

The minister said that it was "perfectly clear that [she] used the expression 'tolerable' as a statistical explanation," and that none of the meeting participants asked any questions about her statement because it was clear in the context of her speech.