After criticism over its failure to protect women and medical workers from violence, Turkey has adopted a new law, toughening sentences for offenders and making stalking a crime for the first time.

Turkey Passes Law to Curb Violence Against Women and Medics

A doctor talks with nurses before their shift next to a sealed intensive Care Unit (ICU) room at the Prof. Dr Cemil Tascioglu City Hospital, in Istanbul, 7 December 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE/SEDAT SUNA

A new law aiming to protect women and medical workers from violence entered into force after it was published in the Official Gazette on Friday.

Jail sentences for violence against women and medical workers are increased, and courts cannot make any sentence reductions for these offences.

“The perpetrator’s formal attitudes and behaviour aimed at influencing the court in the trial are not to be considered grounds for discretionary reductions,” the new law says.

It also defines persistent stalking against women as a crime for the first time, which incurs jail sentences from six months to two years.

Persistent stalkers may be jailed for up to three years, if “the crime is committed against the child or the spouse who has been separated or divorced”.

Violence against women and medical workers will also be added to the list of most serious crimes in the criminal code.

Violence against women and medical workers are a major problem in Turkey.

This year, at least 151 women have been killed by men; 419 women were killed by men in 2021 and 413 in 2020.

Turkey was the first country to ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on Combating Violence Against Women, the so-called Istanbul Convention.

But Islamist and conservative critics claimed that it undermined traditional family values, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrew the country from the treaty in 2021.

A report published by the Union of Health and Social Service Workers said violence against medical workers increased by 62 per cent in 2021. That year, 364 medical workers were attacked and another 316 medical workers lost their lives.

The report suggested only 11.3 per cent of the attackers were imprisoned for their violence.

Some 37 per cent of the attackers were released after a short period of detention while another 16.8 per cent were subject to administrative investigations. A third of the number, 34 per cent, walked free without investigation or punishment.

Violence against medical workers and the government’s inaction are considered one of the main reasons fuelling the current exodus of medical doctors.

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