Despite delays, the new Turkish Penal Code is scheduled to go into effect June 1, 2005. The new code provides greater protection for women’s rights and has been widely praised by women’s and human rights groups. According to Amnesty International, thirty of the thirty-five amendments proposed by a coalition of women’s groups were incorporated into the new code.
Implementation of the code will be of importance to Turkey’s bid to join the European Union (EU). In its 2004 recommendation on Turkey’s accession to the EU, the European Commission called attention to Turkey’s record on women’s rights, saying, “The situation is still unsatisfactory: discrimination and violence against women, including ‘honor killings,’ remain a remain a problem.” If granted entry, Turkey will be the first majority Muslim country to be approved for EU membership.
Along with the revision of its Penal Code, Turkey has initiated nationwide projects to address the issue of violence against women. At least one third and as many as half of Turkish women have been victims of family violence according to a report released by Amnesty International in 2004. In an effort to combat the continuing problem of “honor killings” in Turkey, the government recently launched a television campaign denouncing the practice. Additionally, state-employed Muslim clerics have been directed to preach against “honor killings.” The New York Times reports that according to official records at least 43 women were victims of “honor killings” in Turkey in 2004, though women’s and human rights groups estimate that this number is likely much higher due to underreporting.
The government has been working with nongovernmental agencies to fund additional projects for women’s rights, including an educational program about violence against women targeting Turkish men in military service and a project to work with local administrators to implement the new Penal Code, inclusive of measures that pertain to women’s rights, according to The Los Angeles Times.