Protests erupted in Turkey in February after the discovery of twenty-year-old Ozgecan Aslan’s burnt body in a riverbed. Aslan was stabbed to death while resisting an attempted rape. The perpetrator attempted to cover-up the murder and prevent Aslan’s identification by burning her body and cutting off her hands. Aslan’s death has drawn attention to the tragic reality that passing legislation is not sufficient by itself to end violence against women—there must also be enforcement of the legislation along with cultural recognition of the rights of women.
Since 2000, Turkey has modernized its laws to provide greater protection to women. The Turkish Civil Code now grants women and men equal rights within the family. Following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that Turkey had failed to protect a victim of domestic violence, Turkey enacted domestic violence legislation in 2012. Turkey’s Penal Code has also been updated to eliminate antiquated and paternalistic views of sexual assault and honor killings. Sex crimes are now defined as crimes committed against the individual victim rather than the family, and references to chastity, morality, shame, and public decency have been eliminated.