52 MEN 52 WEEKS / #08 MURAT YETKİN: 3 States of Male Violence

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You are already familiar with the first state of male violence. The other writers in the “52 Weeks, 52 Men” series are writing about it, but if you are reading this piece then you know it too.

That state is not only sexual violence, but at most it is that. One time, a retired high judge was talking about the files he had seen in his career. In all the case files he had looked at, the only example he hadn’t seen was a son raping his father; other than that, “anything you could or couldn’t think of” had passed through his hands. (And he wasn’t sure such a case had never existed, for the injured party might have, he was guessing, abstained from relaying this shameful incident to the police station and the court, or just been afraid.)

This state dictates that the use of brute force brings entitlement to everything and that this self-proclaimed right deriving from “animal instincts” can be limited not by conscience or law but only by a superior force.

I don’t want to go into examples and put you off further. From the tenet “Might makes right,” of the man who shook Germany’s unity with his iron fist, Otto von Bismarck, to the deranged man who attacked a schoolgirl for wearing shorts on a bus because he was “aroused”, to the neighborhood inhabitants torturing a kitten to death on the street, the bully that pushes and shoves the child with glasses, and the murderer who finds his divorced wife in a women’s shelter and kills her, this state is illustrated by various phenomena.

According to bianet’s “male violence tally”, in 2017, at least 290 women were killed by their husbands or ex-husbands, fathers, brothers, or another men close to them. Likewise, 22 children and 34 men, who were with the women during the incident/tried to prevent the murder were also killed. 101 women were raped. 247 women were harassed, 376 girl children were sexually abused, 417 women were injured. Unfortunately the numbers increase every year, and these are only the ones that make it to court; that is how we find out, but as the judge said, there are also ones that go unreported.

As for the courts. There was a case I was particularly interested in: 26 people including government employees and shopkeepers who had raped a 13 year old girl in Mardin in 2011 had been sentenced to the minimum five years each because the Chief Public Prosecutor had not objected.

Now I’ll give another example from Isparta province for those who automatically think “Those parts of the country are always that way.” It’s the year 2012, and 26 year old Nevin Yıldırım kills Nurettin Gider with a hunting rifle, cuts his head off, and throws it at the coffeehouse in the village square, for raping her at gunpoint, getting her pregnant, and continuing to rape her with the threat that otherwise he will spread photos of her.

Not to approve what she did of course, but the good conduct abatements granted to rapists and thieves who put on ties and shave is denied Yıldırım, who gets life imprisonment.

Ayşe Arman aptly coined the phrase “Mustachioed Justice” for this situation. Now we move on to the second state of violence, that is the state of gender inequality. The best example of this is the state structure.

We have mentioned courts already, let’s start at the top.

In Turkey, half of whose population is made up of women, all 17 members of the Constitutional Court, which has had women members and even a woman president in previous years, are men. Aside from the Supreme Court of Appeals’ president and vice-presidents, the heads of 18 out of 20 penal chambers and 18 of 19 civil chambers are men.

The State Council President is a woman, but there is not a single woman in lower management positions. There are around 16 thousand judges and prosecutors. 66 percent of judges and 91 percent of prosecutors are men. The bridge between the judiciary and the legislature is the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK); among its 11 members made up of high judges, there is only one woman. There are no women among representatives in the Council of the four political parties represented in Parliament.

Of the 550 MPs that entered Parliament with the November 1, 2015 elections, 82 were women, and this is one of the highest numbers observed yet. There are no women MPs in 43 our of 81 provinces. With a representation rate of 15 percent, we rank 91st in the world.

One of the 18 commissions in Parliament is headed by a woman, and that is the Women-Men Equality of Opportunity Commission, which gives the impression of being just for show.

Of the 25 Ministers in Cabinet, 2 are women. Among the 25 Deputy Ministers there are no women. 3 out of 81 governors are women, and this is the highest number yet. 16 of 973 mayors are women.

The best example of women being in decision-making positions within the state structure is in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; 43 out of 239 ambassadors, and 4 out of 20 general managers are women, and even here, the rate of women in management positions is 18 percent. In past years there have been women amongs deputy undersecretaries, but currently there are none.

We say that education is a must, right? There’s an even more interesting situation at the Ministry of National Education. The number of female teachers in primary education (151 thousand) surpasses that of male teachers (115 thousand). But the minister, undersecretary, and seven deputy undersecretaries are all men; only 1 general manager and 2 out of 81 provincial directors of education are women in the ranks of the Ministry of Education.

89 percent of administrators in decision-making mechanisms of the state are men, and 11 percent are women.

The picture is brighter in the private sector, but only slightly: with women administrators at 13 percent, we rank 41st among 43 OECD member states. Turkey is followed by Japan and South Korea.

The problem is not only equality of opportunity.

Women who have been oppressed and deprived of education can sometimes become staunch supporters of the imposed order, more so than the imposers themselves, and want their daughters to follow in their footsteps. There was a case on social media the other day. A mother stopped her boy getting water for his older sister from the kitchen, saying, “Otherwise he’ll serve his wife some day,” so her daughter got up to get the water herself. This is the lightest of examples; it ranges all the way to overlooking and approving a father’s rape and torture of his daughters, his sons.

One of my colleagues told me this story. She is about to go into his house in Yeşiköy, Istanbul when a young couple by the seaside catches his eye. As a woman, she takes offense at the young man’s yelling at and shoving the girl. She intervenes from a distance, saying: “What are you doing?” And yes, you guessed correctly, the girl snaps at our friend, saying: “What do you care? Mind your own business.” For young girls and boys who have been inured to the mistreatment of their mothers, aunts, sisters, and brothers, that becomes the “norm”; they adopt and perpetuate it.

Gender inequality is internalized. It is perhaps the most serious social problem, and not at all easy to deal with.

There are other aspects too.

Women get more tired, working women get more tired, and working women who are married with children get the most tired. Men, even urban-dwelling, educated, self-proclaimed egalitarian men don’t lift enough of the burden on women. But there is an impression that boys whose mothers work are generally more inclined to share in household chores and childcare, and girls with working mothers are more confident and less likely to be submissive.

For instance, we need to not only change our behavior but also our language. We have been saying “businessman” up to now, and it became “businessperson” when women came into the picture? Why is it so hard to say “businesswoman”? Why was it easy to say “man of science” when it is difficult to say “woman of science”?

And thus we come to the third state of male violence: the state of not being able to get one’s voice out.

And here the most important task falls on progressive, egalitarian men of conscience.

Progressive, egalitarian men of conscience need to stand with women for gender equality.

Just like Nazım Hikmet’s lines, “From mothers’ lullabies, to the news read by presenters”… Just like that, in every aspect of life… (MY/APA/PU)


Introduction – Haluk Kalafat

#1 I Must Have Gone Crazy – Murat Çelikkan

#2 Woman – Mehmet Eroğlu

#3 Sur-Karşıyaka-Cebeci-Sublime Porte – Tuğrul Eryılmaz

#4 Middle East – Ümit Ünal

#5 Yes Pain, Rocky – Hakan Bıçakçı

#6 I’m Afraid of Confrontation! – Yekta Kopan

#7 An Evening in the Country