Sexual and gender-based violence

What is sexual and gender-based violence?

Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is violence committed against a person because of his or her sex or gender. It is forcing another person to do something against his or her will through violence, coercion, threats, deception, cultural expectations, or economic means. Although the majority of victims and survivors of SGBV are girls and women, boys and men can also be harmed by SGBV.

Different types of sexual and gender-based violence

There are several forms that sexual and gender-based violence can take:

Sexual violence is any act, attempted or threatened, that is sexual in nature and carried out without the consent of the victim. Sexual violence includes rape, sexual abuse and harassment, exploitation, and forced prostitution. It can happen within marriages, especially when there is a lack of consent for sexual activity by one of the spouses.

Any sexual activity with a child (any person who has not yet completed 18 years of age) constitutes sexual violence. It has devastating effects on the development of the child involved, as well as on his or her physical and mental health.

Physical violence such as beating, punching, maiming and killing (with or without weapons) is often combined with non-violent forms of SGBV, including emotional and psychological violence.

Emotional or psychological violence is non-sexual, verbal abuse that is insulting and degrading to the victim. This can include isolating a person from his or her friends and family.

Socio-economic violence, which excludes a person from participating in society. This includes the denial of access of the person to health services, education and work, and the denial of his or her civil, social, economic, cultural and political rights.

Domestic violence is any physical, sexual, psychological, verbal and economic violence between one person and another within the family. It may be committed by family members and/or people considered as family members, whether or not they live in the same household.

Harmful practices include female circumcision, honour killings, polygamous marriages (marriages to more than one person), marriage of a child (any person who has not yet completed 18 years of age) and forced marriage (any marriage imposed against the will of a person).

  • Child marriage: According to the Turkish Penal Code, the legal age of marriage is 18. Refugees wishing to marry in Türkiye are subject to Turkish law and procedures. Unofficial marriage with a child (any person who has not yet completed 18 years of age) is illegal, considered a crime and is punishable under the Turkish Penal Code.
  • Polygamous marriage: As with child marriage, marriage to more than one person (polygamy) is illegal and punishable in Türkiye.

All forms of sexual and gender-based violence, including domestic violence, forced marriage and child marriage, violate fundamental human rights and are punishable under the Turkish Penal Code.

Reporting and seeking help

If you are exposed to any type of sexual and gender-based violence by a family member or a person from outside your family, or if you are an eyewitness to such violence, please remember that you have rights under Turkish law. You should report violent incidents, whether directed at you or someone else, to one of the following entities:

  • Police stations (Turkish: Polis Merkezleri) or Provincial Directorates of Security (Turkish: İl Emniyet Müdürlükleri),
  • Provincial Directorates of Family and Social Policies (Turkish: Aile ve Sosyal Politikalar İl Müdürlükleri),
  • Violence Prevention and Monitoring Centres (Turkish: Şiddet Önleme ve İzleme Merkezleri (ŞÖNİM)),
  • Social Services Centers functioning under the Provincial Directorates of Family and Social Policies,Public health institutions and hospitals (Turkish: Sağlık Kuruluşları),
  • Gendarmerie (Turkish: Jandarma Karakolları),
  • Public Prosecution Offices (Turkish: Cumhuriyet Savcılığı),
  • Bar Associations (Turkish: Barolar ve Adli Yardım Kurulları) including Women’s Rights Centres of Bar Associations (Turkish: Baroların Kadın Danışma Merkezleri),
  • Municipalities (Turkish: Belediyelerin Kadın Danışma Merkezleri) and non-governmental organizations (Turkish: Sivil Toplum Kuruluşları).

You can also report incidents by calling:

  • 183: Ministry of Family and Social Policies (MoFSP) counselling line for families, women, children and persons with disabilities. Arabic speaking staff is available.
  • 155: Turkish Police Available in Turkish.
  • 156: Turkish Gendarmerie Available in Turkish.

(If you do not speak Turkish, you may require the assistance of an interpreter to call the above lines.)

Reporting your situation will enable the relevant services to provide you with the appropriate support. Please get in touch with the entities listed to see what assistance may be most appropriate, and can be provided, for your individual situation.

Please remember that under Turkish law, the Turkish authorities are required to treat all complaints in strict confidence.

If your circumstances do not allow you to report a violent incident on your own, you can approach UNHCR or its partners in order to obtain assistance.

UNHCR and its partners will guide you on the steps for complaining against the perpetrator. In line with the confidentiality principle, your personal information/situation will not be shared with third parties except for the security forces or prosecution office. (These authorities are always informed of official complaints.)

Related information

How to seek help
Social, economic and civil matters