793 women subjected to rape, sexual harassment in custody in Turkey since 1997: report

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According to a report by the Legal Aid Bureau against Sexual Harassment and Rape in Custody, which provides free legal support for women subjected to rape or sexual harassment during detention in Turkey, a total of 793 women have applied for assistance since the bureau was founded in 1997, the Mezopotamya news agency reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, released on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 118 applications alleging rape in custody were filed over the past 24 years.

Of the 793 women who sought legal assistance, 571 were Kurds, 181 were Turks and the remainder included Bulgarian, Austrian, Arab, Turkmen, Uzbek, Afghan, Moldovan, Armenian, Iranian, Georgian, Albanian and German women, the report said.

Among the perpetrators in the 793 cases, 482 were police officers, 143 were gendarmes and the remainder included prison guards, a mayor, court officers, an intelligence agent and other public servants, members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the report also said.

Out of 36 women who asked for legal aid from the bureau within the past year, 22 were Kurds and 11 were Turks, according to the report, which further stated that in six of the cases, the incident was rape.

The perpetrators of the rapes and sexual harassment cases taking place within the past year included 23 police officers, 10 prison guards, two other public servants and an intelligence officer.

“Sexual torture of women and trans women by official forces in detention, house raids, street protests, or for any reason, always ends with impunity. In the cases we have launched for all the women who applied to us, not a single official has been sentenced so far. This is the clearest indication of how dire the situation is,” the bureau said in the report.

They also underlined that sexual torture was the most difficult form of torture to explain, follow and prove since the documentation of such incidents is only possible through reports by the Council of Forensic Medicine, which is “totally dependent on the political power.”

“The increase in the violence of the state language, policies and action mostly reflects on women. That’s why these days we need to evaluate the increase in racist nationalism, chauvinism, the hardening of the state language, together with the increase in the number of femicides,” they added.

Femicides and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women are killed, raped or beaten every day. Many critics say the main reason for the situation is the policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which protects violent and abusive men by granting them impunity.

A total of 345 women have been killed since the start of the year, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform. There were 410 women killed in 2020, with dozens found dead under suspicious circumstances.

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