Ankara, 25 February 2022 – Victims of Violence Support Centres were opened today in six provinces of Turkey with the aim of improving access to justice and strengthening legal aid services for vulnerable groups, particularly women subjected to domestic violence and other gender-based violence. The centres were established in Antalya, Balıkesir, Denizli, Mardin, Rize and Samsun by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) working in partnership with the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (UTBA) and the Turkish Ministry of Justice. The effort is part of a US$1.4 million project funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), represented by the Embassy of Sweden.
The official launching ceremony in Ankara was combined with simultaneous online ribbon-cutting ceremonies held at each of the six centres in the pilot provinces. Lawyers who received special training on national and international legislation, psychology, gender equality and social services will work at the centers. The aim is to provide services and guidance tailored specifically to the needs of victims of violence. The effort will be supported by outreach designed to inform those who are unaware of their right to legal aid of the available services.
“Access to justice is a fundamental human right,” said UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton, “but in practice many people face obstacles in exercising this right, and inequality is the result. That is why UNDP is working with government and civil society partners to improve the quality and reach of free legal aid, with a particular focus on services and support for women who have been subjected to gender-based violence. In the process, we hope to counter the impunity that perpetrators of violence against women unfortunately too often enjoy.”
“Gender equality is fundamental in achieving freedoms and democracy,” said Swedish Ambassador Staffan Herrström. “On this occasion, I also want us to recognise all victims of violence and those who are at risk to be victims of violence and state that you have the right to live a life free from violence. It is the duty of the state in all UN member states to prevent violence, to protect you and to make sure justice is done when violence has been inflicted. That is why we are here together today.”
Bar associations are crucial to the effort to expand legal aid, as was noted by lawyers and NGO representatives.
“We know we are obliged to provide legal support especially through our legal aid service providers lawyers and Bar Associations.” said UTBA President Erinç Sağkan. “We are ready to do whatever is needed to raise awareness about combating violence and eliminating the culture of violence.”
The centres are part of a larger SIDA-funded UNDP project. The initiative, now in its second phase, aims to develop a more coordinated, professional and systematic approach to legal aid provision in Turkey.
For more information on the UNDP project: https://ilaprojesi.org/tr/
Orhun Yurtvermez, UNDP Turkey – Project Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org