Turkish Child Gang Rape Case Causes Outrage

Posted on | november 22, 2011 | No Comments

Outrage in Turkey over the verdict of a rape case is being heard following the verdict by the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals (Turkey’s highest court). The case involved alleged gang rape of a 13-year-old girl in 2002, for which the court has ruled that the child had consented to sex with her 26 accused rapists. The age of consent in Turkey is 15 years-old. In the alleged gang rape case the victim, identified as N.C., met with two female suspects, T. and E., in who then organized payment for intercourse with the child from 26 individuals, who were given repeated access to the child over a period of 7 months. The suspects charged in the case include soldiers, civil servants, business owners and teachers. The court decision stated that the girl, now 21 years-old, had “consensual” intercourse with the 26 men multiple times over a seven-month period in 2002.

The public outcry over the ruling quickly became political as even Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who wrote on Twitter; “I take particular care not to make any direct statements on issues that are in the judicial process,” Gul wrote in a series of statements on his Twitter account last Friday. “[But] the decision about reducing the punishment related with what happened to a young child of ours made me deeply uncomfortable… there is still the possibility for an appeal. I am hoping for an outcome that will comfort the public conscience.”

Other political leaders also voiced grave concern over the case and according to a statement by Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ; “This ruling takes its place in Turkish judiciary history as one of the defective rulings. I hope the deadline for the correction of the ruling has not passed. If not, and if the Supreme Court corrects the ruling, they [could rectify the situation] (Hurriyet Daily News).”  Bozdağ also added that the court erred in using its judicial discretion in favor of the convicts instead of N.Ç., as the court ruling included only the minimum sentences for the accused rapists, despite their ability to place the maximum sentences on the accused.  According to reports some of the 26 defendants facing rape charges were acquitted, while others were sentenced to serve only between one to four years for the rapes.

The court based their ruling and sentencing on an earlier version of the country’s penal code, which underwent significant revisions in 2005, which provided lesser punishments for defendants found guilty in cases of sexually assaulting children. “In the old penal code there was a very clear article which said it didn’t matter if you were under 15 [years of age] or over 15… if any rape or sexual assault happened with the consent of the girl or the woman, then the sentence would be reduced,” said Pinar Ilkkaracan of the group Women for Women’s Human Rights, who lobbied for the 2005 revision of the Turkish criminal code (CNN). Fevzi Elmas of the Supreme Court of Appeals, stated in an interview that, “The evaluations of the court were correct. We made a decision. This decision is not definite, it is also not possible for this decision to be changed by making noise (CNN).”   Umit Kocasakal, head of Istanbul’s bar association, told CNN-Turk television that the decision was “bloodcurdling (AP).”

The case clearly has the country outraged and calls for a clear evaluation on the country’s laws and judicial interpretation, and shows our global dissociation with victims’ rights. In my piece in August, When Will We Stop Blaming Victims? and May piece, Ending the Blame and Shame of Child Victims of Sexual Assault and Abuse,  I discussed the issue of placing the blame of abuse, assault, and/or human trafficking on that of the victim.  In my opinion “any indication of a notion that leaving children to believe there is no one in a position of authority to protect them, and that they are the sole responsible person for their own safety, is a blatant statement of neglect” and judgement like the case in Turkey only go to compound the issue of child protection as children and abuse victims will not seek assistance if they feel they will not be protected.  This case only fails to protect the victim, but re-victimize the victim.

It continues to appear that on an international scale we continue to have many hurdles to overcome in our misunderstanding of the needs of victims. Victims’ identification, rights and services, while improved, remain extremely underfunded, and awareness about the issues, despite an increase in reports compared to previous years, still need to become more and more mainstream. We must in no way place any level of blame on the victim… especially a victim whose abuse or rape began when they were only a child.  Shame should never be used against a victim. We must remove words such as blame and shame from our mindsets or we can never truly seek to assist survivors of any abuse in a quest to lead thriving and sustainable lives. Let us seek to protect and defend our children and not to shame and blame them for our own failures to act.  Additionally we must insure our laws and judicial system are on the side of the child and victim.

AUTHOR: Cassandra Clifford
URL: www.bridgetofreedomfoundation.org and http://children.foreignpolicyblogs.com
E-MAIL: Cassandra [at] btff.org


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