After a debate of six years, Turkey introduced chemical castration for sex offenders, amid objections from women’s groups who claimed that the regulation would not be a real deterrent for Turkey’s ever-increasing sexual assault cases.
The new regulation, which was promulgated in the Official Gazette on July 26, says that medical treatment to lower or terminate sexual drive may be applied to individuals convicted of sex offences.
“This is both against the human rights and medical ethics,” said Gülsüm Kav, the president of the “We Will Stop Femicide Platform,” a nation-wide women’s network which provides legal assistance and support to women who are victims of violence and sexual assaults. The group was formed after the rape and de-capitation of a 17-years-old by her boyfriend – also the same year that two women from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) proposed medical treatment, or rather, chemical castration, for sexual offenders. The two deputies said that they were inspired by a similar debate on the issue in Italy at the time. Since then, various countries including Poland, passed legislation on forced chemical castration on child molesters and other offenders of sexual assault. Also, the calls for chemical castration has gained new momentum after Turkish public outrage on the brutal murder of 20 years old Ozgecan Aslan by a minibus driver who attempted to rape her.
The chemical castration – or “treatment” as the AKP would like to refer to it -, which had been dangling for past years, has come at a time when the government can pass legislation easily, due to its extended powers of legislation under the emergency rule, abbreviated as OHAL, declared after a failed coup attempt in July 15.
The statement from the Platform criticized the “chemical castration” as “one of vengeance” rather than justice. “What we want, as women who fight against violence, is maximum penalty for those who kill women and effective state protection for women who report abuse and threats from (estranged) partners and husbands,” the statement said.
“This issue of treatment or chemical castration is both unclear and avoids to mention the consent of the offender,” said Flying Broom, another women’s group, in an open letter to the President and the Prime Minister in 2014, when the issue was first brought up. “The issue is linked to the constitutional rights and the fact that it is being addressed in a regulation without a debate is a mockery of law.”
The recent regulation clearly states the consent of the offender will not be sought. The decision for the treatment rests with the courts, after a medical report is prepared. On the other hand, once the offender fails to continue with the treatment, his penalty would be increased.
Other points in the regulation include measures that are favored, such as offenders being barred from living in the area where their victim either works or resides, being barred from approaching the area where the victim is, and being barred from working in an environment that involves being together with children.
While the Turkish government has pledged to fight against violence against women in general and rape and sexual assault in particular, Turkish women’s associations and individual activists complain that legal measures fall short as rapists and sexual offenders benefit from reduced penalties due to “good behavior” and that women who ask for protection against potential offenders are not properly protected by the state.
Izmir Bar Association’s expert on cases of violence against women, Nuriye Kadan pointed out that the number of femicides in the last few years has ranged between 5,000 and 6,000. “State bodies either cannot or do not disclose exact records, so different platforms try to fill in this gap in terms of adequate data through media monitoring,” she said.
The most recent of these projects to fill in the data gap is by journalist Ceyda Ulukaya, who has made an interactive “”Femicide Map” of Turkey. The project, supported by the Platform for Independent Journalism, contains detailed data about 1,134 femicide victims between 2010 and 2015, including the victims, the identity of the accused/murderer, the reason and links to newspaper stories about their murders.
Both qualitative and quantitative data shows that the majority of the victims were killed by husbands/ex-husbands (608 cases) and boyfriends/ex-boyfriends (161).
Moreover, up to 3,000 rapists and abusers in Turkey have married their victims in order to avoid prosecution, the head of the Supreme Court of Appeals department Mustafa Demirdağ told the Parliament's Sexual Abuse Prevention and Investigation Commission earlier this month.