Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 6 News List

AI berates Turkey for `scandalous' abuse of women

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Up to half of all women in Turkey are subjected to "scandalous" levels of violence, mostly from their own families, Amnesty International claimed on Wednesday in Istanbul.

Despite the country's eagerness to join the EU, the government and judicial authorities not only tolerated but even endorsed heinous "crimes of honor," the human rights group said.

Recently, the number of young girls being forced to commit suicide in the predominantly Muslim nation had increased. Some had even been taught the fundamentals of how to hang themselves with a rope and a chair, the report noted.

"The authorities rarely carry out thorough investigations into women's complaints about violent attacks, murders or suspicious suicides," said the watchdog's UK Director Kate Allen.

Underpinning the violence is "discrimination that denies women equality with men in every area of life," Amnesty said.

Acknowledging that Turkey's modernizing government had taken the most dramatic steps yet to reform the country's penal code, the group said it was still questionable whether the new laws would be implemented.

The code, which introduces articles of gender discrimination for the first time, is expected to be passed next month by the Turkish parliament.

The report quoted a local activist who said women could be attacked for as little as "saying hello to male friends on the street."

Ankara hopes to secure a start date for membership talks with the EU this December. In violation of EU norms, Turkish courts still commuted the sentences of rapists if they pledged to marry their victim. Citing figures from Ankara's ministry of interior, the report said some 546 convicted rapists had received reduced sentences in 2002, after promising to wed females they had assaulted.

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