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  • Writer's picturejodieharburt

Violence against Women and the Wider Story and Implications.

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

Recently we woke to the announcement that Turkey has left the Istanbul Convention which was opened for signatures here in 2011. The pact provides legal and social guidelines for governments to curb violence against women and has been signed by 45 nations and the EU. It is interesting to note that the UK and US have not ratified it and Poland recently withdrew from it.

See the Wikipedia link below for more info.

FYI: This article contains mild references to psychological and physical violence and also talks about consensual sex. See link at bottom of article if you are in need of help and protection (For women in Turkey only)

It is (tragically / ironically) called the Istanbul Convention, first ratified by Ankara (that’s our capital city) and yet here we are, leaving it… And upon what grounds?

Here are some points to consider in pondering this:

1. Reports show that on average, here in Turkey every day a woman is murdered by such as husbands, fathers, sons and ex-lovers. There is a pervading sense of ownership and entitlement of men over women here (and everywhere — I’ll get to that).

2. Psychological abuse of women in this country is huge, rife and so normalised that I even suffered it completely unknowingly for most of my first marriage. It was inadvertently perpetrated by my late first husband, the man whose combined role of protector/owner/husband/lover was utterly confused. His confusion was a micro manifestation of the nationwide and worldwide confusion and distortion of roles of the male, the patriarchy and the masculine.

When I finally found the words to explain this to him, he was shocked, ashamed. He agreed that I was right to want a divorce, and then went right on doing what he knew best; oppressing and abusing to keep up his ownership role over me and our children.

I’m sorry for spelling it out here, it is my deeply personal story and affects other people asides me, but it is story that must be told. I’m sorry if this glimpse into my story triggers hurt or offence, but it is what it is. He was a victim of his culture and I wish him peace. I forgave him as a person. I am still working on forgiving myself for allowing that dynamic to have existed in my and my kid’s lives. And I no longer intend to forgive or be complicit in the culture that provoked and perverted the manliness of a person into being abusive.

The pervading dynamic is so strong that during the process of learning a new language and adaptation it is far too easy, as a young woman at the time, to lose clarity, even as a comparatively objective foreigner. This is even more the case for all those born into such cultures.

I could write of how the trajectory in my life could easily have led to the kind of story that is front page news, the kind of story that would have made my family another awful statistic. I could talk about how this reality touched my life and wounded us. But I won’t reveal more here, let it suffice to be said that many of us have stories just like this and ones that are harder or even impossible to tell, so instead let’s look at the facts:

Straight fact — Woman are raped, murdered, beaten up physically and psychologically everyday here.

Lacking in effectiveness it may be, but the Istanbul Convention was a reminder that this is not OK, therefore it is important; every reminder and empowering factor for women is essential.

TRT World reports that:

“Family, Labor and Social Services Minister Zehra Zumrut Selcuk said on Twitter that women’s rights are guaranteed in domestic legislation, especially in the constitution.

“Violence against women, above all, is a crime against humanity and a fight against this is a human rights issue. What really matters is the principles. In this direction, we will resolutely continue to fight against violence with the ‘zero tolerance’ principle today and tomorrow, as we did yesterday,” Selcuk added.

Vice President Oktay said the country is determined to advance the dignity of women with Turkey’s traditional and social spirit.

“For this noble cause, there is no need to seek the remedy outside or imitate others. The solution is in our traditions and in our core,” Oktay said.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu tapping on withdrawal from the accord said the existence or absence of international conventions “does not decrease or increase our responsibilities to prevent any form of crime.” ”

Yeeah right.

We do have wonderful traditions here, Turkey sits on the seat of the oldest traditions in the world, many with matriarchal origins. Anatolia is still pulsing with traditions that urge equity and connection to spirit and nature (human and planetary). Yet the dominant narratives that are interpreted and lived via the economical regime, the religion, education, recreation and most aspects of modern-day culture undermine all of that.

So, when local legislation is said to be better at protecting women, I call bullshit!

Simply explained: if it were the case, we would not need measures of legislation and punishment, and we would not have masculine oppression and entitlement so endemic that it can pass as normal and part of the tradition.

We would have the cultural basis that already curbed such depravity and that allowed an equitable, balanced and healthy culture to thrive.

3. Consent and Equality!

Talking of depravity: The subject of LGBTQI rights is what I understand to be an undisclosed issue that this government has against the Istanbul Convention. it might sound reactionary but I think that if a country can’t protect and grant gay rights and all that these entail, including the right to safe and full inclusion into society as trans, gender fluid or non-binary people then that society is depraved…. Same sex relationships, sexual acts or marriage are not!

Let’s look at the core component of this:


Whatever their sex or gender identities, if 2 people both want to have a relationship including sex, whether they are both women or men, it is their business and their's alone. If they want to marry that's also great. it’s their call. The only thing that is relevant to anyone else about this is the issue of Consent. As soon as consent is violated then it becomes all of our business, or rather the social, cultural and legal responsibility.

It is NEVER acceptable to do anything with/to a person who does not say YES!

Here’s a tip: even if a woman changes her mind 2mm before penetration, heck during coitus even…. then that’s a NO, and NO means No, and you can take yourself off and go come in the bathroom. Such timely masturbation is very manly (also womanly).

Serdar, my life partner, read this before I published here and he queried — is it tactically wise to write such provocative things that could lose the respect of the reader since you have such an important message to share?

Good question — I don’t know. Will you stop reading or respecting these words because I mention masturbation and suggest it normal to abruptly halt coitus if either partner becomes unwilling? Is CONSENT such a hard concept to accept?

And besides, the example about sexual consent can be adapted to anything; does your partner consent to being bullied, to relinquishing autonomy, to not having a say? Just because they did once, must it continue?

And in a interesting parallel it is true to ask: Does the planet consent to being mauled, depleted, polluted and scarred? Does the forest relinquish the tree population, or the oceans willingly gift the fish?

These subjects are the same and are the result of the same problem, (a perverted masculine, rampant, extractive, exploitative culture).

Also, regarding my mention of sex, if the Turkish government had not withdrawn from this convention and if women were not being murdered daily, I would not be talking about it publicly here. I also have other things to do of a Sunday, but that is what happens when you oppress or demonise stuff. Stuff that is natural. Stuff that needs to be lived freely within a healthy social construct. And this takes me to point 4 below.

And it is NOT fine if a family wants, or a guy wants to marry a girl who is below the age of 18. Girls (and boys) should be protected by law and given autonomy and economic stability that would allow them to be free to consider the pros and cons of entering the strange legal entity of marriage when they are old enough to fully consider. If the legal age for young adults to have sex is at over age 16 then it should occur between consenting adults who have had free access to sex education and have access to free condoms.

The Economic stability, sex education and free condoms (the right to family planning, and birth control) that I mention are all core aspects of what equal rights for woman are. Without these a culture cannot thrive. And now it gets complicated….

Because we are now talking about EQUALITY.

This is the secret underlying factor of all this. Those in power don’t want us to be equal, the system wants us to continue as slaves to the pervading cultural consumer addicted abyss. Perpetually silenced and oppressed down into nothingness, we are nothing more than statistics and pawns of the game.

Ultimately, we are all something between ballast, fodder and collateral damage.

Harsh? I don't think so. The chances are that today another woman died here, but the major concern is always the GDP.

4. The Istanbul Convention, (especially considering the internationally recognised name), gave a sense of pride and affiliation that has just now been publicly denounced by the government here. A quick search did NOT reveal any way that the government plans to curtail the urgent and huge problem of violence and oppression against women, non-binary, fluid gender or the LGBTQI+ community. They merely (and non-factually) state that they have continued and effective legislation against violence against women.

So, let’s look at the real problem.

The real problem isn’t the legislation or the convention, ratified or otherwise.

It is the cultural foundation that allows, manifests and promotes the mentality of patriarchal oppression over all of society and planet.

5. All of society? Yes:

Men lose out too. I know how painful it is to uphold a mentality that actually stabs your heart. Disrespecting your wife or daughter, mother or sister or any other woman or person really hurts the perpetrator too, it is only possible because of the deeply traumatised psyche that has built the depraved idea that respect is something you gain by owning, beating, oppressing, exploiting and abusing (women).

6. Women = planet, Mother Earth.

This isn’t romanticised feminist rhetoric. It is fact.

Yes, males give the sperm (thanks, really) but the female is the vessel, the nurturing, fertile ground and the incredible creative force that turns that sperm into the full potential and manifests life. The womb is the place of infinite alchemy. And our planet is our collective womb, throbbing with the pulse of an incredibly complex and mysterious nurturing, sustaining, thriving and regenerative system. This stuff is flipping magical and you know it.

7. Where does abuse and exploitation start and where does it end?

So when you, human, damage the planet (which we all do every day) by consuming, by ignoring the planetary cries for protection against abuse, through use of single use plastic, non-renewable energy, (also non-renewable resources for so called renewable energy,) by eating stuff from monoculture farming, by wearing clothes made from unethical and/or plastic based fibres (probably most your wardrobe), when you educate your kids in same old shit schools, when you go to work producing nothingness or harmful products just to maintain this system, when you don’t flipping notice what the planet, the womb, the mother, your mother, sister, wife, child asks of you and is crying out for from you! When you do all the above, which you do, we all do…

then we have side stepped into the mode of abuse. We are abusers.

And it hurts so much for us to do that!

If you hurt your mother with a slap, or if you harm your child, wouldn’t you weep from the horror of it?

Yes, you would! I know.

And seeing as that is what we do every single day, effectively, that is why we have numbed ourselves to oblivion, and it is how we are able to be so much worse, and at such huge scale.

I don’t know what happened. Why the masculine side of us got tweaked into a perverted version of its pure loving and nurturing self, how masculinity the protector became masculinity the flipping depraved pervert. But it happened.

That isn’t to say that all men are like that. Obviously. But I’m not in the mood for being polite, of course I cherish men, the masculine. I adore my partner, my son, my father, my brother, I deeply admire all the men I know who are fighting the internal and external battle to see through the blind spots and to become, first allies of the feminine, and secondly to actively protect and to advance a culture of equity and balance.

I, like all healthy minded people, yearn with all my heart for the balance between genders (however many you count), and between all our traits.

But I am not blind to the way the patriarchy has been co-opted by the economic system which can otherwise be named extractive. I see how the beautiful aspects of the masculine have become modified, shaped, harnessed and complicit in the abusive dominant model. And I see how hard it is to see through their blind spots on this. Furthermore, I see that we as women are often complicit in entrenching this domination. We suffer from Stockholm Syndrome and are often allied to our abusers or in awe of them. We are in contempt of those that are less entrenched than we are, and like all who are abused, we are polarised within ourselves and are rendered incapable of collaboration, and collective insight and action.

8. What about elsewhere?

If you are a stranger to me and reading this thinking, “well you decided to live there in that (Muslim) country, you brought your story upon yourself” my response is this — that was a divisive, prejudiced thing to think. I mean if you found yourself thinking that then you are divisive and prejudiced, you really are! It is OK, most of us are, but see it and work through it, we need you on the other side!

And if you are thinking “yeah, well this is all relevant there in Turkey, not where I am…” then take a look at your own county, if you think our nations or cultures are that wildly different, then you are deluded.

Do you know what this story looks like where you are? What are the statistics? And if you find it isn’t comparable with the horrific stories from India, Turkey or Iran, and if you earnestly believe (or can prove statistically) that you don’t have a problem of rape, abuse and violence against women in your country, what about equal wages, maternity care, rights of domestic workers including housewives or husbands who stay at home to raise kids? What about the psychological abuse that we all experience every time we open a single film on TV, the constant reminders of imposed role appropriate behaviour, and clothes even from age 0 months upwards that perpetually reinforce the story of separation between binary genders that are not treated as equal. What about the accusations of abuse in the work places, in the film industry? What about the # metoo movement?

And what about the primarily women, children and minorities of the global South who are in the front lines of climate change provoked by our consumption?

All this is embodied… We don’t just let it happen around us… It becomes us! It is us!

And what about the persistent externalised abuse of those other countries?

The patterns of reoccurring violence across the planet at family, domestic to global proportions are all interconnected.

To clarify, if you eat a bar or chocolate that has been grown on violently cleared land by workers who are also abused by their working conditions etc… You are practising abuse….

If you find the local culture of a nation to be abusive and inexplicable, you need to look at how that nation has been treated by your nation or the global superpowers. That means delving between the sheets of whitewashed narrative. The news show you watch is unlikely to discuss that your addiction to plastic wrapped, palm oil products is complicit in the internal violence problems of that nation, a nation that you exploit for the resources you consume.

As I said. Abuse is us.

So, let’s cut the sanctimonious self-righteous bullshit.

9. Decolonisation in relation to abuse of women.

Countries that are extractive, exploitative and colonial in approach (that means every single so called developed nation in the world) are the absolute foundation of abuse against the Mother, all mothers, all women, all minorities and everyone who lives outside elite privileged spheres.

Decolonisation is a thing. A huge thing.

Search for it online, learn about it, let’s make it our main life goal. Everything we live and experience has been moulded for us via the extraction … Sipping coffee right now? Yep - everything! (Unless you are one of the increasing number of people who are already on the journey in which case, cheers!)

Recap. The Istanbul convention isn’t just something that might protect some (particularly vulnerable) woman from abuse, it’s is a psychological symbol and reminder of an essential part of the rights of all to stand up against all kinds of inequality, discrimination, exploitation and extractive colonialism.

I’m signing out now.

I have a child and a garden to tend.

A man to cherish. A man who is making every effort to work with me on questioning our cultures, on building our mutual empowerment and on opening up our vision of what can be, so that we can embody creating something that is wonderful.

I hope you will work on that too.

Frankly the future looks pretty grim if you don’t. The only sway we can achieve on this is through multiple acts of awareness and solidarity.

Let us be an ally, stand up for women, girls, children and all minorities. But first let’s notice them. Ask them how life is for them and how we can be in solidarity. Let’s question our own roles in the dominant story and see what part of an emerging story might suit us better.

This applies to all of us who have a choice as to how we show up each day.

If you need help regarding issues of violence as a woman and are in Turkey this is the website for Mor Çatı organisation, and specifically the link to legislation to protect against violence.

For further reading search ‘Wetiko’ (the Cree word that sums up this patriarchal pickle we are in) Or read this:

For more ideas about how we can stand up for women practically, day to day, see my article here:

Photos used for eye collage from : Anna Shvets, Fillipe Gomes, Anna Shvets, cottonbro, Christian Diokno from Pexels

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