World Bulletin/News Desk
Advocates of women’s issues are torn by the latest court decision which ruled that the state should provide plastic surgery for a woman to escape an abusive ex-boyfriend.
A court in Izmir ruled last week that a 20-year-old woman should be given a new identity, a new address as well as a new face after being repeatedly abused by her ex-boyfriend.
While there have been rare cases of plastic surgery being demanded for witnesses in protection programs, this is the first such ruling for a victim of male abuse.
The drastic plastic surgery solution, say women-issues advocates, could have been prevented had existing laws been better enforced.
The 20-year-old student had been harassed incessantly, more often than not violently, and sometimes publicly, by a boyfriend with whom she broke up some three years ago.
She could not escape from constant threats and violence, despite moving to another city and taking shelter in numerous women’s protection houses.
He would always find her despite the fact that the penal court had issued a temporary restraining order, explains the woman’s lawyer.
"The perpetrator is moving around freely," said the woman's lawyer Memet Harun Elci, who had to resort to take his case to a family court to protect his client.
In Turkey, family courts generally deal with cases of domestic abuse and, subsequently, of violence against women, namely by partners or exes. But it does not boast the reach of a penal court.
"The family court can only sentence to temporary jail time for up to six months. It is not intimidating," he added.
Nevertheless, it is this court that ruled on the plastic surgery for the 20-year-old victim – a decision that, while acknowledging the necessity of protecting women from violence, is also considered as quite extreme.
A lawyer, expert on women issues, argues that the cause that led to a woman to change her life dramatically was not the penal code in itself, but its application, or lack thereof.
The judicial infrastructure provides necessary acts to punish women abusers, says Aydeniz Alisbah Tuskan, head of the Istanbul Bar Association's women rights center. But, it is the mentality of law-enforcers and judges that needs to change in order to protect women better.
"The judges have a male-dominant mentality. If the perpetrators do not have any criminal record, they let them off," says Tuskan, criticizing the light sentences given to men who abuse women.
If jail time is less than five years, Tuskan says, the judge can commute the sentence based on a clean criminal record, which spells further trouble for abused women.
The lawyer does see the exceptional ruling of plastic surgery as a "bold and positive" act as it is proof of a certain change in mentality, since the violence against women is being seen as a family matter.
"It is a society and democracy issue," says Tuskan. "There has to be an alteration of mentality and perception in all related institutions," she urged.
Tuskan also called for the inclusion in the penal code of an exceptional article, aiming for harsher punishment for women abusers.
According to Seda Cavusoglu, who works at the Mor Cati Women's Shelter Foundation in Istanbul, there are precautions that could have been taken before resorting to plastic surgery ruling, but points at incoherencies in the judiciary.
"On the one hand, there is a court, which realizes the threat that the woman is exposed to and rules to protect her and on the other, a court which could not take the necessary decision to stop the abuse of the woman," said Cavusoglu in a phone interview, referring to the family court and penal court rulings.
She adds that for plastic surgery to be a true last resort, there also needs to be a thorough examination of possible breaches in confidentiality of abused women who seek escape from abusive men – for instance perhaps in their children’s’ schools.
Last year in Turkey, 237 women were killed due to male violence and this number has been exceeded in the first ten months of 2014, according to the NGO Stop Women Homicide.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Aralık 2014, 12:55