End Sexual Harassment and Attacks on Women Under Custody!

For some time now, mechanisms of oppression and regulation over our lives go against the life we wanted and longed for. We, women were at the forefront in the Gezi resistance for we were bound and determined to fight for our cause and press forward our demands. In the streets, we were exposed to a brutal form of violence, which we are actually acquainted with: police violence. We lost some of our friends during the resistance and some of us got heavily injured. We discussed for days about the unlawfulness of police violence and the destruction it caused. Meanwhile, government and state authorities such as the Police Chief, the Governor, the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Prime Minister, through their statements, repeatedly revealed that they are taking sides with the police and therefore manifested responsibility for the violence. Even the mainstream media, otherwise overlooking the significance of the events, had to pay attention to the disproportional use of violence by the security forces. The leadership of the Gezi resistance demanded the resignation of those responsible for deaths, injuries and the abuse of rights but state authorities only symbolically dismissed a few police officers and released the murderer of Ethem Sarısülük.

Violence we were exposed to as women, on the other hand, was not limited to these well-documented cases of street violence. We always faced another, an equally systematic form of violence: Sexual harassment and rape. The weapons of the masculine state were directed at us.

Sexual violence, in its manifest and latent forms, is indeed a part of our everyday lives as women. The threat of sexual harassment and rape which we feel everyday and every moment, is long accepted and systematically used by the state as an instrument of torture. For years, we tried to unveil this torture under custody or arrest together with those women who were subjected to it. What is different now is that, during the Gezi resistance, the state enforced this tactic on a much greater number of women at once.

Women who were detained during the resistance started to speak out about their experiences with the police. We now know that 7 women who were taken to Istanbul Police Station on the 31st of May were forced to undress and were subjected to “detailed” search in a completely unlawful and arbitrary way. Our friends who were detained at Şakran Prison in Izmir also stated that they were searched naked. Eylem K., who was arbitrarily kept in a police car for three hours in Ankara, bravely spoke about her experience of sexual harassment by the police. D.E., who was taken under custody while protesting in Ankara stated that, “Women and men are exposed to violence in different ways; women suffer all the more because they are both being beaten and sexually harassed at the same time.” Deniz shared on Facebook that, while under custody on the 16th of June, she was called a “whore, terrorist, slut, traitor…” and was verbally threatened by rape. Almost all women who were taken under custody expressed that the police used the threat of rape as a means to scare them. The striking similarity of women’s experiences is the proof of the systematicness of sexual harassment and attacks directed at women.

These methods of sexual domination are included in all aspects of our socialization and not only in our relations with the state. For this reason, we cannot at all times exclaim the sexual harassment we are subjected to. The fear of harassment sweeps some of us away from the political arena and leads to our silence. On the other, for many of us, this same concern transforms itself to a courageous and strong-willed action that functions to threaten the systematic male domination. One thing that Gezi resistance taught the state authorities was that no legitimate demand and struggle can be indefinitely suppressed with violence and command. We women will continue to remind the weak memories about this lesson and we will not stay silent about sexual harassment under custody.

In the only official police statement, which was assigned by Ankara Police Department, sexual harassment claims were rejected without any conduct of invesigation. The case of Eylem K. was referred to as ‘actions against the law’ without any mention of the sexual harassment she received from the police. What we expect from official institutions is the immediate investigation of the claims and punishment of the responsible persons. Instead, what we hear is their justification of the use of police violence. We repeat that there is no legitimacy to sexual harassment and violence under custody under any circumstances.

Many international conventions and reports define sexual attack under custody or in penal institutions as torture. These conventions further state that governments are legally obliged to prevent and punish verbal or physical sexual attacks. In Turkey, it is a constitutional provision that, in cases regarding basic rights and freedoms, if local laws are different than the sanctions of international conventions, international conventions must be abided.

We are certain that state authorities, members of the security forces and academicians of the police academies are aware of these conventions and reports. In this regard, the standard and systematic sexual assault on women under custody convinces us that sexual harassment against women is a torture method deliberately used on us by the state. The only possible attempt to prove us wrong would be the initiation of a comprehensive investigation about the responsible security forces conducting the crime of sexual assault. We demand that sexual harassment and attack under custody must immediately come to an end and the responsible persons must consequently be punished. 

July 12th, 2013

Signed by:

Adana Kadın Danışma Merkezi ve Sığınmaevi Derneği (AKDAM)
Amargi İzmir
Ankara Feminist İletişim
Antalya Kadın Danışma Merkezi ve Dayanışma Derneği
Ayvalık Bağımsız Kadın İnisiyatifi
Bağımsız Feministler
Barış İçin Kadın Girişimi
Boğaziçili Feministler
Cinsel Şiddete Karşı Kadın Platformu
Cinsiyet Eşitliği İzleme Derneği/ CEİD
Cumhuriyet Kadınları Derneği
Çanakkale Girişimci Kadınlar Üretim ve Pazarlama Kooperatifi
Çankırı Kadın Dayanışma Derneği
Elder Kadın El Emeğini Değerlendirme Derneği (Çanakkale)
Eşitlik İzleme Grubu/ EŞİTİZ
Ev Eksenli Çalışan Kadınlar Çalışma Grubu
Ev Hanımları Dayanışma ve Kalkındırma Derneği/ EVKAD (Adana)
Filmmor Kadın Kooperatifi
Girişimci Kadınların Desteklenmesi Derneği/ GİKAD (Denizli)
Gökkuşağı Kadın Derneği (İstanbul)
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İmece Kadın Sendikası
İstanbul Feminist Kolektif
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İTÜ Cins Arı Heteroseksizm Karşıtı Öğrenci Topluluğu
İzmir Bağımsız Kadın İnisiyatifi
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Kadın Eğitim ve İstihdam Derneği/ KEİD (Ankara)
Kadın Erkek Eşitliği Derneği (İzmir)
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Kadın Gazeteciler Takipte Oluşumu
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Lezbiyen, Biseksüel, Queer, Trans Odaklı Haz Ve Direnişten Yana Antiotoriter Otonom!- İllet
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