28 January 2022

280 – 217 – 01.07

The title of this article consists of numbers ‒ simple numbers, however, with deeper and sadder meanings. According to the annual report published by a women’s rights platform called “We Will Stop Femicide” in Turkey, 280 lives were lost to femicide and 217 to suspicious/doubtful female death in Turkey in 2021 alone. And, the last number 01.07 is the date in the very same year when Turkey officially withdrew from the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence) which states its first purpose to be “to protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence”.

You may be thinking “It is the 21st century, how could this still happen?” Sadly enough, it still does, and femicide is a global epidemic that we all need to be (even more) aware of and vocal about. While all homicides are unacceptable, femicide cases have different motives than those of a usual homicide.

Since its origins, the term “femicide” (or “feminicide”) has slightly different definitions depending on the sociocultural contexts in which it is used. According to WHO, femicide is simply defined as “intentional murder of women (and girls) because they are women (and girls)”, while highlighting that these kinds of murders are usually perpetrated by men. Besides this type of homicide, there are also female deaths that remain uncategorised yet involve factors indicating potential femicide, thus the term “suspicious/doubtful female deaths”.

Circling back to the title, these numbers refer to the many lives lost to the mentality which identifies women as nest-makers, mothers, wives, daughters, nurses, caretakers and so on. There is nothing wrong with any of these descriptions, however it is striking to look at the data and see that a considerable number of these women were murdered by a relative, partner/ex-partner or someone else they have been taking care of and nurturing as this is supposed to be their sole role.

The same mentality majorly feeds into the very concept of “honour killings” ‒ murderers finding cover for their ill actions under the name of “honour”, which is a value has been woven into the fabric of society for centuries as a way of separating right from wrong. “Honour” happens to be the central argument in the motives for these murders, justifying these criminal actions in the public’s eyes as well as the legal sphere.

Unfortunately, in Turkey, a big portion of femicide cases are framed around claims on the victims’ unfaithfulness, betrayal or disobedience to their intimate partners or families, while the only thing the victim might have actually “committed” could be to have taken one single decision about their own lives and perhaps end their relationship with their partners or stand up against an unconsented decision on their own lives taken by their family. (More details on this type of femicide is explained in the aforementioned WHO factsheet)

It is not rocket science to figure out that there is something wrong if we are still dealing with centuries-old injustices and their centuries-old consequences. This is the kind of injustice that affects half of the population in regions where this crime is prevalent, simply causing fear of life and death. Half of the population is in fear that they might not make it until tomorrow, simply because they are women.

In fact, they don’t have to be relatives with or intimate partners of anyone. Women are approached simply for being seen as vulnerable and easy targets. This is exactly what happened at the beginning of November 2021 in Turkey. A young woman was brutally murdered in the street, precisely because of this way of thinking. While the motives are as basic and low as this, unwanted advice given to women and girls on how to protect themselves is as counterproductive as “victim-shaming” women and girls, stating the victim has invited the femicide simply by dressing a certain way.

Just like any major societal problem, we as the philanthropy sector cannot fix this situation alone. However, we can at least use the power we hold to keep this issue alive by advocating for gender justice and equality; by applying gender lenses in our work; by shifting public opinion; by transforming the conversation around this matter; by changing our narratives; by sharing knowledge and data; and in so many other ways.

As a philanthropy infrastructure organisation representative, if you are wondering how you could be part of a safe-space where you can discover ways to apply gender justice lenses to your work; learn from your peers’ experiences; get updates on the issue-based developments from other philanthropy infrastructure organisations as well as their respective countries all across Europe; enhance your organisational and sectoral work on tackling gender issues; connect with like-minded networks within Philea and PEX; we have the perfect starting block for you: the PEX Gender Equity and Justice working group. The group, which is now hosted by Philea, meets on a bi-monthly basis and you are always welcome to join!*

On the professional level, your organisation doesn’t have to have a sole focus on gender issues. On the personal level, you don’t have to be a woman to fight for women’s rights, and in fact, you also don’t need to get involved in politics to advocate for gender justice. You only need to realise that we cannot tend to the problems of tomorrow, while half of us are drowning in the problems of today. You only need to acknowledge that women’s rights are human rights. You only need to understand that just for the sake of remaining apolitical, you cannot abandon these issues.

It would be unrealistic to expect these numbers in the title to drop to zero overnight, ‒ there is much work that needs to be done. However, my wish for 2022 is to see a significant drop in these numbers in the title by the end of the year and remarkable improvements on gender issues all across Europe and beyond. If this wish is realised, I know that will mean that we will have moved from our comfort zones and gotten into the real work, and that the philanthropy sector will have been a huge contributor to this change. 

*If you would like to learn more about this PEXproject and join the working group, please reach out to Biray.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and/or the specific Philea networks mentioned, and should not be interpreted as official positions of Philea.


Biray Bensu De Meulemeester