Turkey is a Middle Eastern country large in population and in land mass. The population is more than 80,000,000 people, including at least 3 million refugees from Syria. The country literally bridges the continents of Europe and Asia.

There are significant cultural and social differences between the more urbanized, "westernized" central and western portion of the country and the more rural and less developed eastern portion.

The Problem

In 2007 two researchers from Boğaziçi University in Istanbul initiated an extensive research survey on violence against women. Face to face surveys were conducted with 1800 women, who had been or still were married, about experiences with violence in their marriages and their opinions about violence against women more generally. (See Altinay below)

The results of the research included some of the following facts:

  • 1 in 3 Turkish women have been beaten by their husbands, 1 in 2 Turkish women had not talked with anyone about the violence they experienced before they were surveyed
  • 16% of women in Western Turkey are illiterate 42% of women in Eastern Turkey are illiterate
  • More than half of married Turkish women must ask permission from their husbands to do daily routine activities like shopping, visiting friends or family.
  • A surprising result was that women’s greater income increases violence.
  • 34% of Turkish married women overall had been beaten by their husband. 20% of women who earn income equal to their husband had been beaten. 63% of women who earn more money than their husband had been beaten

These statistics underline the likelihood that power relations are a major factor in Turkish intimate partner violence.

Sexual Abuse Incidence

Reliable statistics on sexual abuse are not available for Turkey (and it could be argued, sexual abuse statistics are not very reliable anywhere).

In the absence of reliable statistics, some peripheral and related information may be helpful to understand sexuality and sexual abuse in Turkey.

Vaginismus is a psychosomatic condition causing the muscles around the opening of the vagina to contract involuntarily, preventing intercourse or making it painful.

The condition is rare in the US, at a rate of less than 1%. Incidence of vaginismus is 10% in Turkey.

In the US: 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before 18 years of age.

World Health Organization epidemiological data suggests that rates of sexual abuse in Turkey are likely to be similar or higher.

14% of Turkish women report forced sex by their husbands,  4% didn’t respond to this question.

When asked the question: What would you do if your spouse were to beat you today?

The answers: “I wouldn’t do anything” or “I would just take it.” were given.

  • 23.6% Turkey overall
  • 46.1% Eastern Turkey

These answers signal a sense of powerlessness on the part of many Turkish women in the face of intimate partner violence.

By contrast, 80 % of Turkish women do not believe that violence by husbands toward their wives is ever justified.


  • Altinay, A.G. and Arat, Y. (2009). Violence against women in Turkey: A nationwide survey.  Amy Spangler (trans.) Istanbul: Punto Publishing Solutions.