Yesterday the European Parliament awarded the LUX film prize to the Turkish film “Mustang” directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven. With today being the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women this award was timely.
The film “Mustang” tells the story of five young sisters living in rural Turkey through the eyes of the youngest sister Lale. It is the start of the holidays and Lale and her sisters run to the beach and play games in the sea with some of their male classmates. This innocent event sparks the end of their freedom as children. Their uncle and grandmother beat them for their “immoral behaviour” and gradually transformed the house into a prison. The girls, who are aged between 12 and 16, are prevented from going to school as the house is transformed into a “wife factory” filled with cooking and homemaking classes. The girls start to be forced into arranged marriages with men they do not know.
The film is partly a response to rising religious conservatism in Turkey and shows how this disproportionately affects girls especially in regards to sexual relationships and marriage. Three of the girls are forced to have a virginity test at the beginning of the film and one of the sisters, on her wedding night, is taken by her in-laws to the hospital to be given another virginity test because blood did not show up on the bed sheet after the first night with her husband.
Over 700 million women in the world today were married as a child, classed as under the age of 18 years according to Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Child brides forced into marriage are often unable to effectively negotiate safe sex, leaving them vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, as well as early pregnancy.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 35% of women worldwide have experienced violence or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner, at some point in their lives. Violence against women and girls is a worldwide problem which cuts across every social strata and international border. Violence can be physical, sexual or psychological. In the European Union 43% of women have experience psychological violence from a partner during their life.
Some EU Member States have signed and ratified the Istanbul Convention on action against violence against women and domestic violence. However Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Latvia have failed to sign the Convention and 12 states, the UK included, have signed the Convention but not ratified it. Ratifying the Convention obligates the country to put the Convention into practice and take action to eliminate violence against women.
The Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament call on the EU to swiftly propose relevant legislative initiatives on combating violence against women in the EU to establish violence against women and gender-based violence as a form of gender discrimination. Furthermore the EU must recognise the elimination of violence against women as a key human security priority.