Rape and Death Penalty: How to Lose in Politics and Life

Yesterday, I wrote about the horrendous murder of a young woman. You may find the relevant details about the issue with a simple Google search. I also mentioned the people’s eagerness to call for death penalty whenever they feel like it. This part of my comments will be all about death penalty, and why we would be the ones to lose if it was ever brought back.

As I said yesterday, Turkey has a really old rape and violence culture, and this culture is constantly reinforced by the public opinion, as well as politicians. The vast majority of the public can easily find guilt or provocation in a rape victim’s behaviour; however, this is a collectivist culture and it has codes that say “we also have mothers and sisters”. This is an approach that restricts the identity of women to a particular collectivist, patriarchal setting. This also comes with the assumption that any woman who does not behave like an innocent princess, a cute and obeying mother, or a respectable sister “deserves IT”. On the other hand, this approach obstructs the public acceptance of the existence of rape culture, actually and actively sweeping it under the rug. Now, most would find it acceptable to argue “she deserved it” on some level, but they are far more likely than on any other issue to condemn such things publicly, as rape is a delicate issue.

So, it is really easy to condemn rape and publicly oppose it. This is why it seems more acceptable to “come up with a solution” for rape by asking for death penalty for convicted rapists. But, I do not buy it. This is clearly a conservative game that aims to utilise a structural and extremely delicate problem in order to achieve some political agenda. I will explain in a minute.

Yesterday, one of my friends posted a tweet that roughly translates to:

It’s amazingly naive to think, a state that doesn’t even sentence rapists to life in prison, would sentence them to death – @plaseboetkisii

In Turkey, rapists usually practically “get away with it” with a few years, and they get reduced sentences for the weirdest reasons. Just like I did yesterday, I will translate a screenshot in Turkish item by item.

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The man who was “caught on the act of rape” got a reduced sentence as “the act was not completed”.

The rapist who recorded the rape on camera got a reduced sentence for “being an ex-boyfriend”. There are people who get reduced sentences for “consent” if the woman didn’t scream during rape.

There are people who rape their step-daughters and get reduced sentences with health reports stating “her psychology was not damaged”.

There are people who take women to the forest, beat them up, undress them by force, later having an asthma episode, passing out, getting a reduced sentence “because they could have done it if they wanted to but didn’t”.

There are people who get reduced sentences for raping and impregnating women, because “the woman wasn’t a virgin”.

There are people who stab and kill their wives who “asked what the time is” of a stranger, and get a reduced sentence because “she was flirting”.

There is an example where a man kills his wife and gets a reduced sentence “because she was wearing jeans, had piercings and he found birth control pills in her purse”.

There is the man who killed his daughter who said “my father raped me” on TV, and he got a reduced sentence “because he was publicly offended”.

I think these -unfortunately not only real, but also really common- examples would shade light on how rape and violence is approached in Turkish judicial system. Even if one is an advocate of death penalty for rapists, it is absolutely clear that a rapist is already really unlikely to get the fair punishment he deserves. A system that gives reduced sentences to rape or murder when the woman was “wearing jeans”, “not a virgin” or “not screaming”, will definitely act similar whether there actually is a death sentence or not.

Rape is never “only rape”. It is terrible by the act itself, but it is also a life threatening situation. Most rapists are likely to kill their victims in order to cover their crime. So, it would be a heavy responsibility to expect from a woman to even scream, as she knows she probably will die soon. A user on Twitter said this:“there is no correct reaction to rape”. She is right, yet Turkish judicial system keeps giving reduced sentences for all the weirdest reasons, most coming from “she did not react as necessarily”, meaning “she did not scream”, “she did not bite his penis off”, or “she did not struggle enough to harm the man”. The survivors of attacks that include rape live with it for the rest of their lives, or they even experience family or neighbourhood pressure because of a crime they had no consent, choice or fault in. Still, in this terrible country, surviving rape victims are killed by their brothers, cousins or fathers, or forced to commit suicide by their families in order to “clean the family honour” in the year 2015. Most of these things do not even make the news. Most even are not reported, because most such victims do not even officially exist. They are not sent to schools or hospitals, some do not even have birth certificates or records for their identity.

Death penalty was officially introduced into the penal code in Turkey in the year 1926, making it punishable by death the crimes against the state, the constitution, the military, etc. Some clauses made it official to punish cases of rape and murder by death. The last time death penalty was used by Turkey was 1984, and it was officially abolished in the year 2002 with the aim of Turkey’s future integration into the European Union. Turkey later ratified Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights in 2006. So, bringing back the death penalty is not an option under Turkey’s obligations towards EU negotiations, and Council of Europe membership. At least, for now.

I mentioned above that rape is a delicate issue, even in this rape culture, but the police were not hesitant in detaining some people who protested this rape culture yesterday, following the brutal murder of Özgecan Aslan. So, when it comes to peaceful protests against anything, even rape is not an exception. Anyone who protests anything, even rape, is treated as a traitor and a terrorist who wants to overthrow the government.

In the light of this information, one would need to be missing their brain to argue that something like death penalty would solve the problems stemming from this horrible rape culture. If death penalty ever comes back, “we” will be the ones hanged or shot, the ones who “aim to overthrow the government” by standing against rape and violence. I do not buy it, and I think no one should. This is not the first time the government officials or the conservative majority brought up the subject for discussion in the last few years. They are constantly trying to build up public opinion that supports something already primitive, inhumane and exploitable like death penalty. I know, some might, even occasionally, think that horrible people who rape, kill and burn young women deserve death penalty. I must admit, even I, sometimes think even death is not enough to punish those who commit these horrible crimes after reading the news. Then I remember we are living in the year 2015 and we cannot afford to descend to “their level”. I think rapists should get life sentences, because they deserve it, but I cannot ever sincerely support something like death penalty. Not only because it will be used against people who think and behave like me politically, but because it is an inhumane and primitive form of punishment.

While conservatives are constantly and systematically pushing for death penalty, even “utilising” something disgusting like rape for their political agenda, some of the opposition also buy into it. I have seen people say “the rapist should also be raped, as it is what he deserves”. We are not cave men, the whole existence of something we call “law an order” comes from our need for a society where we do not need purely emotional judgements of the blood-thirsty masses of people. Even the best of us are occasionally falling into this false assumption that more death and violence would solve some things. However, the default, the “right” action is to immediately see that this is wrong, and stop these emotional approaches in our minds, before they become horrible “acts”, like actively supporting something like death penalty.

Please remember the Gezi Park protests and what we have been experiencing since. This is a state that does not recognise its own constitution, or any international, legally binding agreement when such things pose a threat to their political agenda. This is a state that was able to exile thousands of security officers, prosecutors and judges from their cities or duties without showing any official or valid reason after coming face to face with incriminating evidence about themselves, their relatives, and friends. Police officers were able to neglect direct orders when they had to bring President’s (then PM) son in for simple questioning. Directly and openly obstructing justice is one thing, but not allowing standard procedures to continue as they MUST, is a completely different level.

There is no hope about the public either. Millions of people were deranged enough to believe that a woman wearing a headscarf was beaten and urinated on, and her baby was assaulted by 70 to 100 men wearing BDSM clothing in broad day light in Kabataş, one of the busiest towns in the biggest metropolitan city of the country, Istanbul. Even though later a CCTV recording of the area that proved there was no such event EVER came up, most of these people still believe this lie, because they mostly do not use the internet, or watch any TV channel that is not LITERALLY owned by the relatives of President Erdoğan. If a soldier dies getting shot during his military service, they charge his family for the price of the bullet. If a person who is shot in the head by the police while attending a funeral dies, the Social Security Institution can ask for the cost of “treatment” from his family (they fixed the problem later, oh, thanks, very much). Anyone organising a simple, even not at all political student meeting or a club activity can be taken in for questioning, then charged with treason or terrorism. It seems so random, but how random it is shows how much danger everyone is. One might easily be arrested and put into prison for the rest of their life for wearing the wrong kind of scarf without any evidence of a crime, or being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The next level is death, and I think there should be a second movie by Seth MacFarlane named “A Million Ways to Die in Turkey”.

While there are so many ways and manners we can die in this country, do we really need the death penalty? State officers shoot children like it is nothing, in the streets, like they are hunting birds for fun. Do we really want to give them the “official” authority to kill whomever they do not like? Do we want to make it “legally acceptable” for the state to play god? Especially when the source of such a demand is totally flawed… Even if one is a death penalty supporter, it will not be used for the things some of us would want to solve, by a state that recognises and actively enforces sentence reductions for things like the following:

  • The defendant wore a suit during the hearings (yes)
  • The woman was not a virgin
  • The woman is the (ex-)wife/girlfriend of the man
  • The woman wore short skirts, jeans, or anything NOT headscarves
  • The man did not ejaculate
  • The woman’s psychological state was not harmed (how?)
  • She asked for it because she did not scream
  • She asked for it because she screamed but there were not any marks of struggle on the man’s body
  • She PROBABLY had a secret relationship with the offender and was cheating on her husband because she once went out to buy groceries and said good morning to the shopkeeper

This issue does not stop with rape or violence against women either. Now that I wrote an article in English, there is this guy:

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Every tweet you post in a foreign language, every column in a newspaper, letters to UN representatives criticising Turkey… They are all acts of treason that should be punishable by death. If I had the authority, I would shoot every single person who defame our country abroad.

This is not an individual example. This approach is supported by the vast majority of the public. So, let us ask the government to bring back the death penalty, and prepare our mass funeral all together. This terrible country is not our country any more. It belongs to people like Murat Akayalp above. They want us dead, as soon and as painfully as possible. Do not buy into this death penalty crap.

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The original article was published on Beacon Reader and this is the link to it.

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