Explaining the Womens’ Rights Crisis in Turkey

Sadie Perkins

Madison, Wisconsin

Feminist advocates from other countries have joined Turkish women in protesting (Photo Credit: BBC)

On March 10, 33-year-old Sarah Everard’s body was discovered south of London, a week after her disappearance. Metropolitan Police male officer Wayne Couzens was charged with her kidnapping and murder two days later. Her death became a symbol of violence against women. Marches and protests were accompanied by another global reckoning over gender inequality.

Women communicated across national borders through social media, sharing their stories on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. One country commonly left out of these conversations is Turkey, which has also recently seen reignited womens’ rights protests.


Gender-based violence and femicide has been on the rise in Turkey for years. According to the Turkish feminist organization We Will Stop Femicide, 474 women were murdered in Turkey in 2019. In 2009, a study that was conducted by Sage Journals found that 42% of Turkish women from the ages of 15 to 60 were in some way physically or sexually abused by their husbands or male partners. According to Turkey’s justice minister, the murder rate of women rose 1,400% from 2002 to 2009.


The issue intensified in Turkey on March 20, when Turkish President Recep Erdogan pulled Turkey out of the Istanbul Convention. Turkey had signed the international treaty, which sought to combat violence against women and deliver legal justice to perpetrators of it, in 2011.


The reasons for this defense of perpetrators are unclear. Turkish conservatives have argued that Turkey should withdraw because the convention supports the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, which they view as “detrimental to family values.” Many Turkish womens’ rights activists, including opposition parliamentarian Gokce Gokcen, have condemned the withdrawal. An official statement issued by a coalition of feminist groups argues that the decision will empower abusers and murderers.


Feminist advocates from other countries have joined Turkish women in the condemnation of this decision and stand in solidarity with protestors there. In July 2020, a #ChallengeAccepted Instagram trend meant to uplift women through black and white selfies helped spread awareness about the high rates of femicide in Turkey.


The crisis in Turkey has resulted in increased sharing and supporting of Turkish womens’ rights campaigns. Among them are the Purple Roof Women’s Shelter Organization, the Turkish Philanthropy Funds and Small Projects Istanbul. Through donations and social media fundraisers, advocates around the world have helped further the cause these groups share: everlasting gender equality.