Turkey: Turkey's 'Panic Buttons' Turn Off Safety Advocates.


Turkey has a high-profile pilot project to ward off domestic assault. Safety advocates say it won't work as long as victims continue to be routinely disbelieved and mistreated.

ISTANBUL, Turkey (WOMENSENEWS)--When the government in Ankara replaced the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs with the Ministry of Family and Social Policies a year ago, women's rights activists saw the clock turning backward.

This, after all, was the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who in 2010 told a gathering of Turkish women's organizations in Istanbul's Dolmabahce Palace that he doesn't believe in equality between the sexes.

But the new ministry won over some skeptics about a year ago, when it began a better system for documenting cases of domestic violence. In the past, police and prosecutors lumped these attacks together with ordinary crimes in a way that hindered tracking. Now they have a separate category and domestic violence figures have risen sharply.

The ministry misfired more recently with its high-profile "Panic Button" project, which critics here say glosses over the country's deep problem with domestic violence.

The project launched in August in the provinces of Bursa and Adana. It provides women with devices hidden in watches and pieces of jewelry that can be pressed to connect to a call-center system in case of an emergency or attack.

Selime Buyukgoze, a volunteer at Mor Cati, a women's shelter foundation based in Istanbul, says panic buttons won't do much good when abused women have so little sense of social protection.

"The whole system has to be changed in Turkey," she says.

When women report domestic violence, Buyukgoze says, they are widely considered guilty "in the eyes of family, society, at police stations and in court."