Özgecan Aslan: Men Kill Women

Özgecan Aslan: Men Kill Women

Özgecan Aslan was a 20 years old psychology student in Mersin, a city in southern Turkey. She died as she was heading back home in a minibus, a very popular means of transport. The driver, after an attempted rape, killed her by stabbing and beating her with an iron bar. . Then, with his dad and a friend’s help, he cut her hands and burned the body against any DNA evidence and threw it in a river. The body was retrieved on the 13th of February.

In Turkey, where 3oo [1]hundred women were killed by men last year, many protests were organised to say ‘enough’ to violence against women. One banner particularly struck me: “She was 20. She still had so much to do”. As a Turkish student just a little younger than her, I am still planning my future, still living with my innocent and naïve prospects, hence I could not identify myself with Ӧzgecan more. I have spent every single summer of my life in that country, and I am wondering how I am still alive; and when my time will come. I am a veteran in a war against women. I am still alive but it could have been me. I am living with the sense of relief and guilt of the soldier who came back home, safe and alive, after seeing his or her comrades fall. What’s the difference between me and Özgecan? I could have been her, she could have been me. We were one bullet away from each other. Or rather a man or two.

Men kill women. Since the Witch Hunt in the Middle Ages until today’s Özgecan, men have killed and will kill women. The misogynist society, this world that hates women and girls so terrifyingly and violently, has consistently tried to deny the existence of women. Confined to the domestic, cosy but oppressing walls around them, women have quickly and easily been excluded from the public realm and made unable to express themselves. The few times we were out, women have been impeded to show themselves: veils hiding our so bothering existence from men, or strong social backlash (“slut-shaming”) for clothes considered “too exposing”, provocatively reminding our physical differences with men. Violence, rape, torture, mutilation are to undermine our self-respect and to dominate our bodies and our existence. The ultimate expression of misogyny is femicide. Women are killed every single day. Even before they are born.

As I noticed that even my Microsoft Word corrector underlined the term femicide as incorrect and many renowned dictionaries (not just in English) fail to provide a reference to it, offering an explanation for the term would be useful. The United Nations Studies Association (UNSA) defines ‘femicide’ and/or other gender related killings as “the killing of a woman because she is a woman, or the killing of a girl because she is a girl”. Its lexical non-recognition tells a lot about the worldwide lack of awareness.

According to the UN, there are 200 million women missing in the world. Each year, around 66.000 women are violently killed. This accounts for almost a fifth (17%) of the victims of homicide. The Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) Vienna Liaison Office published in 2013 a report on femicide[2]. The report categorises femicide and gives a desolating picture of a modern reality. Female infanticides and gender-based foeticide are widespread in India and China. In both countries, the gender ratio for children under 15 years is 117 boys for every 100 girls. The traditional methods for killing baby girls are particularly violent: feeding them with salt to increase the blood pressure or rice with its husk to slice their throats, mixing milk with poisonous plants. To avoid detection (luckily, the human mind is very adaptable), new means have been developed: starving, dehydrating or wrapping babies in wet towels so that they die from pneumonia. In China, poor men, bereft of women, try to find their soul mates through women trafficking, purchase and abduction.

Closer to us, femicide as a result of domestic violence is particularly widespread and widely unreported. In Europe, intimate partner femicide rates have remained constant over the last 70 years. Domestic violence kills around two women each week in the UK, one every three days in France. In Ireland, 99% of the murders of women were committed by men 99% of the women were killed by men in 1993. One woman is killed every two days in Italy; and, the murder takes place in a familial context in 7 out of 10 cases.[3]  Femicide in name of honour is also common and generally unpunished. There are around 12 of them in the UK each year. With the rise in “honour suicides”, there were one thousand honour killings in Turkey over the last five years. In Pakistan, 77% of cases of this type have been acquitted in 2011.

Femicide related to organized crime is not discussed very much. As drug trafficking increases in some Latin American countries, such as Guatemala or El Salvador (which holds the sad record of the highest rate of female killing worldwide), so does the number of women killed. Only in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, 382 women and girls, mostly aging between 15 and 19, were murdered in the hands of drug traffickers between 1993 and 2004.

Then, we have dowry-related femicide, which usually happens through immolation, “targeted killings of women at war”, “genital mutilation-related femicide”, murders related to accusations of sorcery, and serial killings of women… It is a kind of list that one would wish it never existed.

I have not even mentioned the given reason for each killing type. For instance, I have not mentioned that babygirl infanticides are practiced because it is considered that girls would not be able to look after their parents as they get old having left their family after marriage, or that the acts that might bring dishonour to a family, and end up with the murder of a daughter, or that 70% of the femicide cases are related to the “crimes of passion” during or after a separation.[4] I have not because I assumed that we all have heard of these justifications. Perhaps this is the problem: we have assumed or unconsciously accepted that there are reasons that push a man to kill a woman, other than misogyny. We take for granted that there might be certain traditions, just like we unconsciously took for granted that an outfit might be a trigger for rape. We might as well have seen reasons like putting too much salt, answering a phone call too late, looking for a job or having a tattoo as a traditional cause for murdering women. Those were some of the justifications given by men in Turkey for femicide.[5] They appear excessive and outrageous, just like all the other explanations put forward.

Misogyny kills. Women are seen as men’s property. “Usus, abusus, fructus”, this is how the Romans defined property; this is exactly what happens to us; girls and women: used, sold and destroyed. Our lovers will kill us because if we refuse to be their own private property, then we cannot be anyone else’s. Our parents will deny us to grow up because we have poor market value, or because we will end up being somebody else’s property. Instead of burning his rival’s car or house, way too common, a gang member will destroy another of his private property, his partner. Özgecan’s murderer could not ‘take’ her body, he took her life instead. In one way or another, ‘the object’ ends up in the hands of the one who supposedly owns it. We are perceived as objects. Just as objects have designated roles, we are also attributed roles: mother, daughter, sister, wife. If we are lucky enough not to be forced, we are strongly urged to stick to our roles quietly. If we somehow start acting as women, that is as human beings (a little reminder for anyone who had forgotten it), we will be quickly reminded our primary position. Who were the witches burned in the middle Ages? Smart and independent women, such as healers, abortionists, Beguines (a group of Catholic sisterhood emancipating itself from the strict codes of the Church, especially in the sexual realm). As stated by a Turkish feminist organization[6], half of the femicides in Turkey happened as “women wanted to make their own decisions about their own lives”.

We tend to see the men who torture and kill women as some sort of perverts. I believe it is a misuse of the language. By designating them as such, we make their situation particular: they become marginal individuals who act out of specific impulses and circumstances; we give those misogynist criminals individuality; and therefore, we do not see the massive violence against women. The fact is that misogyny pushed each of those criminals to act; those men did not see women as anything else, but their natural property.

We have to acknowledge this fact: men kill women. We must not accept any excuse, any particularity and see it on its global scale. Each femicide has to be taken seriously. It is only by identifying and recognizing that we can take public and legal action. Özgecan is not an exception. She is one among many of a long, terrifying and yet, not entirely known list. How many other women are to be found dead as the victims of misogyny? How much of their future will be stolen by men? Will I be one of them?

Yağmur Arıca, Bachelor Student , University College London (UCL)

Please cite this publication as follows:

Arıca, Y. (March, 2015), “Özgecan Aslan: Men Kill Women”, Vol. IV, Issue 3, pp.102-106, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=8481)

Endnotes

[1] http://www.en.firatajans.com/kadin/eski-esini-barismadigi-icin-katletti – Almost 300 women were killled in Turkey in 2014 retrieved on 24 March 2015 – Fırat Ajans Turkey

[2] Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) Vienna Liaison Office, 2013. Retrieved from:

https://femicideacuns.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/femicide_a-gobal-issue-that-demands-action.pdf

[3] Melania Di Giacomo, ‘Femminicidi’, available in Italian. Retrieved from:  http://www.huffingtonpost.it/2014/11/19/femminicidi-rapporto-eures_n_6185318.html

[4] Association « Osez le féminisme»,  http://www.osezlefeminisme.fr/article/reconnaissons-le-feminicide-communique-de-presse-du-vendredi-22-novembre-2014

[5] BBC, Selin Girit, « Loud calls to action follow murder of young Turkish woman ». 20 February 2015. Retrieved from :  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-31538538

[6] http://www.kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net/veriler/1105/2014-subat-ayi-kadin-cinayeti-gercekleri – Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu – ‘We will Stop Femicide Platform’ in explaining Femicides in February 2015 – retrieved on 24 March 2015.

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One thought on “Özgecan Aslan: Men Kill Women

  1. Sam

    In saying so flippantly that “men kill women,” and that men who use violence against women are not to be seen as perverts or abnormal, you imply that men are somehow hardwired to be murderers and rapists, which is ludicrously sexist.

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