The International Crime and Punishment Film Festival ended Thursday (October 4th) after screening more than 100 movies related to violence and discrimination against women.
The festival brought together academics, cinematographers, NGO representatives, activists, writers and the press from Turkey and more than 40 countries to exchange knowledge and experience on violence against women.
Professor Adem Sözüer, who organised the film festival, said the intention was to look at the issue of violence against women from the different perspectives of law and the arts.
“Non-jurist people often perceive the legal norms put forth by jurists in different ways; hence during this festival, we also wanted to see how artists viewed the problem,” Sözüer told SES Türkiye.
To bring “the world of academia and that of the arts even closer,” discussion panels brought together academics, artists and civil society groups to discuss violence and discrimination against women.
In late August, the case of 26-year-old Nivin Yildirim was catapulted into the media after the married mother of two killed and decapitated her rapist of eight months. Last week, Habertürk reported the suicide of a 15-year-old child bride in the southern province of Adana, who was believed to have killed herself because of the abuse she faced from her husband.
The news headlines capture only a fraction of the violence against women in Turkey, officials said. About 44 percent of all Turkish women between the ages of 15 and 60, and 47 percent of rural women, “had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their husbands or partners at some point in their lives,” according to a 2009 Hacettepe University study cited in a Human Rights Watch HRW report.
In May, the Hürriyet Daily News reported that according to data collected from law enforcement, reports of domestic violence jumped from 48,000 cases in 2008 to 80,000 cases in 2011.
These numbers pale in comparison to the estimated number of actual cases, as the vast majority of cases of violence go unreported to authorities. One study cited in the HRW report found only 3 percent of women reported domestic violence to authorities.
“I’m always very cautious about data because in this field, as in many others in Turkey, data collection is still limited,” said Nicole Pope, author of “Honor Killings in the 21st Century,” adding the unclear legal definition of domestic violence also makes it difficult to know the exact figures.
Pope said bringing the issue to the attention of the mainstream media has had an impact increasing awareness about domestic violence, empowering women in the process.
“More women who might have remained silent in the past because they weren’t sure of getting support from those around them, have started speaking out,” she said.
A more open discussion is exactly what Sözüer aimed to do by focusing the film festival on violence and discrimination against women.
“This topic has attracted enormous attention and everyone, especially women, had a lot to say about this issue,” he said.
A broad-based approach is needed to reduce violence against women, said Pinar Ilkkaracan, an activist and co-founder of the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies.
“Violence against women can only be stopped if there’s a holistic, coordinated effort of the government under the prime ministry,” she told SES Türkiye. “It’s an issue of a holistic effort under the prime ministry, the ministry of interior, the ministry of agriculture, the ministry of the exterior, the ministry of justice – which is responsible to train all judges and prosecutors.”
The theme of the Crime and Punishment Film Festival next year will be “Children Dragged into Crime and Children as Victims of Crime,” Sözüer said.