Fighting to keep women safe
In 2009, the lifeless body of Münevver Karabulut was found in a garbage container in Turkey. The efforts to cover up the murder shook the country and led to the foundation of We Will Stop Femicide Platform to prevent femicides.
According to the United Nations, gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. That is why it has been defined as one of UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
Progress has been made: more girls are going to school, more women are in positions of leadership, and laws are being reformed to advance gender equality.
Even so, there are still many challenges. Discriminatory laws and social norms remain pervasive, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a steep increase in violence against women and girls.
Murder gave rise to the movement
This year's winner of Finland's International Gender Equality Prize (IGEP) is Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu or We Will Stop Femicide Platform that is fighting to stop femicides, violence against women, and child abuse as well as to ensure gender equality.
The Platform was established as a reaction to the murder of Münevver Karabulut, a high school student who was killed by a fellow student, someone she considered a friend. The perpetrator managed to evade arrest for half a year.
"In the case of Münevver Karabulut, focus was not on catching the perpetrator and getting justice for the Karabulut family but covering up the murder. A group of us thought there was a need for a platform to address the issue of femicide," say Gülsüm Önal and Fidan Ataselim, both founders of the Platform.
Since 2010, the Platform has been working to stop femicides and achieve a world where women are completely free from violence, being fully equal and free.
The murder of Münevver Karabulut reflects the changes in the Turkish society. After the 1980s, new generations have grown up with new expectations of equality, but during this century, the conservative government has persisted on strict role definitions of men and women in the family and cut support systems for women. This has created new potential for conflict and femicide.
Fighting through the courts
To start with, We Will Stop Femicide Platform focused only on femicide cases, but its scope has gradually expanded at pace with the need for support. Today, the Platform's activities range from raising awareness to lobbying.
"Femicide is an important problem in Turkey. We uncovered it, named it, and this way we enabled the authorities and society to recognize the problem and start working to solve it."
Focusing on the implementation of the law to protect women from violence and ensure their survival soon expanded into owning all cases of violence, not just murder. From there, the Platform's scope has extended to aiding in lawsuits on workplace sexual harassment, mobbing, and child abuse.
By participating in the lawsuits, the Platform created pressure on public institutions to participate in the lawsuits, too.
"As a result of our calls, for example, the Ministry of Family and Social Policies started to participate in women's cases."
Thanks to the Platform's actions, penalty reductions have become more difficult and deterrent sentences have been attained. The Platform has also managed to reopen many cases of suspicious death to be investigated further when they were already closed as suicides.
The tangible gains of litigation are not only legal benefits. In the judicial system, the Platform and the women seeking justice have created publicity, a stage where women exist and make their voices heard.
We Will Stop Femicide Platform also keeps records of femicides and shares the information with public every month. This work has resulted in the term femicide being officially accepted by the Ministry of Interior.
To keep the topic in people's minds, the Platform arranges mass protests, educational session, and seminars.
"We are in dialogue with lawmakers and policy makers, parties, and officials in ministries. We are fighting for the implementation of all the articles of the Istanbul Convention and to ensure the law no 6284 protecting women is fully implemented in Turkey."
Support from gender equality frontrunner
The International Gender Equality Prize awarded to We Will Stop Femicide Platform was established to celebrate Finland's 100th anniversary of independence, as a kind of reverse birthday present. The World Economic Forum index shows Finland is the world’s second-best country for gender equality.
"Promoting gender equality worldwide requires effective actions and determined work. The International Gender Equality Prize recognizes and raises awareness of this work and also contributes to the promotion of gender equality globally," says Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin who presented the prize on 22 November 2021.
The 300,000-euro prize is awarded to a person or organisation that has advanced gender equality in a globally significant way. The recipient assigns the money to a cause they have chosen that strengthens the position of girls and women.
Awarding the We Will Stop Femicide Platform provides a chance to generate wider public discussion beyond the borders of Turkey.
The prize money will go to strengthening the Platform's organization and its support line to reach more women. The Platform also wants to create media channels that give voice to women's rights and give women strength and encouragement, as the general media do not cover the topics sufficiently.
"We have done what had to be done and what everyone should do. The fact that the fight in our country has been seen by the international community gives us great strength and happiness. The award coming from a country that promotes women's rights like Finland is also a source of pride for us," says Gülsüm Önal from We Will Stop Femicide Platform.