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Women's organisations condemn Turkey's plan to release thousands of sex offenders

WOMEN’S groups in Turkey have hit out at government plans that would result in domestic abusers, paedophiles and murderers of women released from jail under emergency measures to reduce the prison population during the coronavirus pandemic.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) submitted a proposal to parliament on Tuesday that would see about a third of Turkey’s 300,000 prisoners released. 

Sex offenders and those convicted of gender-based violence would be among those released under the plan, which would see sentences reduced and prisoners more than half-way through their jail-terms allowed out on extended probation.

More than 200 women’s organisations across Turkey signed an open letter demanding that the bill is scrapped.

It said that the release of the prisoners was being disguised as a measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

But in reality it was to deal with an overcrowded prison system whose population was growing massively under President Erdogan’s  authoritarian government.

"We, the women, won't give up on our fight to protect our rights," the letter said.

An open letter signed by 76 Turkish bar associations also condemned the bill.

They expressed “alarm” at the proposal and said that it would place women and children at risk.

The Union of Turkish Bar Associations was among those warning that the draft law would create “an irreparable injustice for all victims” and seriously damage the people’s faith in the law.

“We as the defenders of children’s and women’s rights do not want the ones who inflicted violence on the child and woman and who sexually abused children and women to walk freely among us,” the letter stated.

The proposals had already drawn criticism for excluding political prisoners.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) spokeswoman Meral Danis Bestas warned that murderers of women would be released, but the party’s former co-chair’s Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag would remain behind bars.

She said it was “unacceptable” to include those guilty of sexual crimes in the list of prisoners released.

Earlier this year plans to introduce a sickening “child rape law” led to international condemnation and calls for governments to review relations with Turkey.

The proposals included in the Third Judicial Package would allow those convicted of paedophilia to be granted an amnesty if they married their victim.

It would also have meant that 4,000 prisoners convicted of sex crimes against children would have been released.

Turkey is one of the world’s most unequal societies when it comes to gender, ranked 130th out of 153 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020.

The country was rocked by a number of high-profile murders of women last year including Sule Cet, Ceren Ozdemir and Emine Bulut, whose cry of “I don’t want to die” became a slogan of the protest movement against femicide in Turkey.

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