Early last year 22-year-old Guldunya Toren was shot in Istanbul, Turkey, because she gave birth to a boy out of wedlock. While she was recovering in hospital from a first attempt on her life, a male relative disguised as a visitor came to her bedside and murdered her.
Toren is one of the many women killed to preserve the ‘honour’ of her family. Recent changes to Turkey’s Penal Code (TCK) have brought a victory for women like her in a country where daily violence is a chilling reality. Prompted by the European Union (EU) to revamp its legislation before Turkey becomes a member of the EU in addition to a fierce fight put up by women activists, the reformed legislation includes a life sentence for those involved in honour killings. ‘Prior to the new legislation, punishment for committing a murder in the name of honour was two-and-a-half years in jail, after which the murderer received a hero’s welcome back into the community,’ says lawyer and activist Hulya Gulbahar.
Due to the reforms, the rape of a spouse is now illegal, domestic violence is recognised as torture, incest is outlawed, and rapists who previously escaped punishment by marrying their victims will no longer walk free.Mehru Jaffer / Women's Feature Service
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