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Is it OK to Say ‘#MeToo’ in Turkey?

Turkey has also joined the "#metoo" campaign and a large number of people have described on social media what they had been through. There were diverse voices since some people thought that men should also be involved in the discussion, being both the perpetrators and, in some cases, the victims of assault. The writer Aslı Tohumcu evoked a public reaction because she wrote an article showing the motivation behind the actions of abusers and thoughts they had before the abusive action, using the abusers own language. She was exposed to clapback from some groups saying that it legitimizes the abuser and the victims may be affected. She even had to write a press release apologizing to the victims if the article offended them.

However, such campaigns are not that new for Turkey. The most recent outrage was in February 2015, when a 20-year-old college student, Ozgecan Aslan, in the southern part of Turkey was brutally murdered after being raped. Back then, many women including celebrities spoke about their experiences with sexual harassment under the hashtag ‘#sendeanlat’ meaning ‘youtell’ in Turkish. Some private companies broadcasted TV commercials to raise awareness on harassment and violence directed at women in Turkey and it felt like a turning point for the problem for most of us, especially young women.

However, three years after this large public awareness campaign, an important step in reducing sexual harassment and violence against women in Turkey has not been taken when looking at the number of reported cases, not to mention the non-reported ones.

According to the information given in November 2017 by the Higher Education Council of Turkey, 41% of women living in Turkey have suffered from sexual assault at least once in their lives; 93% of women have experienced sexual harassment. According to information given by ‘We Will Stop Femicide’ Platform, consisting of different women’s rights NGOS, in 2017, 409 women were murdered, 387 children were sexually abused, and 332 women were subjected to sexual violence.

In Turkey the #MeToo movement is viewed as great in that the show business is drawing attention to the problem and is making it public. The problem, however, is that their super-sheltered lifestyles obscure the social, political and economic dimension of the problem. They refer to Hollywood celebrities and also Turkish celebrities. We all know that women are commodified; sexism, harassment and rape are everywhere but not everyone is able to express it clearly. I also saw friends using the hashtag on my Facebook newsfeed. I personally did not write anything but it is not because I have never experienced sexual harassment, it is more because the problem in Turkey is already in the public eye. We are sure that these messages will not fall into the frame of the responsibilities. We live in a place where these kind of news are in channels every day. We do not have the same  the social and political structure here as in the US where someone like Oprah Winfrey can discuss publicly that she was able to overcome all difficulties she faced. Something like this would not stop child marriages in Turkey, or change public awareness about the problem here in Turkey. Even the laws are not enough as long as they are not enforced, which seems to be the root cause of the lack of change of the problem in Turkey.

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