Minister under fire for claiming ‘tolerable level’ of domestic violence during pandemic

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Turkey’s Minister of Family and Social Services Derya Yanık has attracted widespread criticism due to remarks suggesting that Turkey has experienced “tolerable levels” of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

Yanık, who was appointed minister following a Cabinet overhaul in April, made the controversial remarks as she spoke to members of a committee investigating violence against women on May 20.

The minister said the pandemic led to an increase in cases of domestic violence in the beginning, adding, “While there were 19,582 cases [of domestic violence] in January 2020, this number rose to a tolerable level in the February-March period and showed a significant drop in April 2020.”

Following Yanık’s remarks, a hashtag was launched on Twitter calling on the minister to resign and said, “We are not tolerating [this].”

A statement released by Nar Women’s Solidarity, a group working on women’s rights, said: “We are not tolerating a minister of family and social policy who legitimizes male violence against women and women’s murders. We are not tolerating your anti-women policies that encourage murderers and target our lives.”

Yıldırım Kaya, a lawmaker from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said while cases of violence against women in the streets and at home were increasing, a government minister is talking about tolerable levels of violence.

“Come on! How can domestic violence be prevented in a country where such a mentality persists?” he asked.

Gizem Albaş, a politician from the opposition İYİ (Good) Party, said let alone tolerating, even one woman being subjected to violence cannot be accepted.

“Your view can never be tolerated, Ms Yanık. Resign!” she said.

In the meantime, the minister said her remarks were taken out of context and that she had no intention of playing down the cases of domestic violence in the country.

Yanık’s remarks came at a time when Turkey announced a decision in March to withdraw from an international convention that aims to combat domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked outrage in Turkey and the international community after he issued a decree on March 20 that pulled the country out of the international treaty, which requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

Violence against women and femicide are serious problems in Turkey, with daily media coverage of the issue.

In 2020, 300 women were murdered, and the rate shows no sign of slowing, with 79 women killed in the first three months of 2021, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform.

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