Street Harassment and Sexual Assaults Targeting Foreign Women in Turkey

I have read an article in Washington Post a few months ago, about the “constant” street harassment in Istanbul. Even though the article itself was weak and based on simple observation (therefore biased, and lacking any background and/or research of any sort) it has received a lot of attention, and quite a lot of feedback, including mine.

So I believe the author should consider her mission to be accomplished, as it got people to talk in a kind of matter that people strictly avoid to speak of.

Photograph: Alamy

Well, it got me to think at least. And also got me to write down a few words about the constant harassment and sexual assaults that foreign women have been suffering Turkey. I have also put this online on the Turkish social platform named ek$i sozluk.

So these are my toughts on;

Street Harassment and Sexual Assaults Targeting Foreign Women in Turkey

There are several determinants in a society which prevents men from simply harassing women on the street; most common ones are, in order of effectiveness, conscience (namely empathy), morality (shame) and the last of all, the government authority (or simply, the police forces). Ninety percent of the time, men who assault women are lacking the first two, and therefore there is only one element left to stop them from committing such crime; the government authority.

In a typical, modern society, the government authority and the collective conscience is intimidating enough to prevent men with lacking moral and conscience to assault women. However, in Turkey, things are a little bit different.

Unlike Western societies, the police has passed on its role, being the last resort for women, with the traditional Turkish family. Consequently, the law and its enforcement is much less intimidating whereas “the family” is a lot more threatening.

Women in the street are considered to be the honor, or let’s just be honest, “the Chastity” of their respective families, therefore expected to be treated accordingly. Any assault to women (with words or violence) will be taken as an insult to the family and will be punished(!) directly (and swiftly) by the family itself, instead of reporting the matter to the police or legal authorities in general.

At this point, unless the women who has been assaulted is not a member of the law enforcement, it is obvious that a potential sex offender is being obstructed by the intimidation of the traditional Turkish family that the lady in the street belongs to, rather than the police. It seems to be okay, even though it is not, for Turkish women with a family background in the society; but how about a foreigner?

In the attacker’s perspective; there is no consicence, no morality, no family nearby to be threatened by, and don’t get me started with the law enforcement. So basically, foreign women are the easiest targets for these lowlifes on the street.

Assuming that we have no control over the consicience or morality of someone, at least in the short run, and since we can not ask Turkish families to adopt foreign women (not funny, i know) we must
directly improve the law enforcements’ approach to such incidents.

And the real national shame here is, in the end, rather than the harassment or assault itself, do our male dominant society really willing to change the way things are?