In this episode, I am hosting three guests; Didem Şalgam, Balacan Ayar and Zeynep Serinkaya-Winter.

We will talk about the effects of neo-conservativism on women’s experiences with gynaecological violence. Didem will draw upon her research to argue that conservative gender norms that have already and always resulted in gynaecological violence are being given new meanings by the ruling government of Turkey. Also, neoconservative interpretations of gender norms manifest themselves in the state policies about healthcare provided for women.

Balacan will mention an important legal case related to gynaecological violence and how this case has the potential to be a me-too movement in Turkey, especially within the healthcare system.

Finally, Zeynep will share her experiences with gynaecological violence, helping our listeners affectively understand the importance of solidarity in dealing with gynaecological violence.

Didem has an MS degree in Sociology from Middle East Technical University. She also has an MA degree in Gender Studies from CEU. She is currently a doctoral candidate in gender studies working on practices of sexting in “new turkey”. Please have a listen at episode three for a detailed discussion of Didem’s research.

Balacan is currently an MA student in Gender Studies at CEU and a research assistant at Koç University in Turkey. She received her first master’s degree in Comparative Studies in History and Society at Koç University. Her research interests are medical anthropology, sociology of health and illness, gender studies, sexuality, and feminist studies 

Zeynep Serinkaya Winter received her Master’s degree from Koç University, where she is currently a doctoral student. Her Master’s thesis analysed the representations of disability and gender in Turkish melodrama films and the construction of normalcy through these representations. Her current research interests include freedom of speech, censorship, the LGBTI+ movement in Turkey, Turkish cinema and digital media. You can reach her at zserinkaya13 [at] ku dot edu dot tr. 

We will start the discussion with an attempt to define what gynaecological violence could entail. Gynaecological violence has eluded researchers, and it has remained as a silent but very persistent problem. Thus, we believe it is best to approach it from multiple perspectives in order not to leave out any experience that may not be as apparent as physical violence.

From the cases our guests will present, we observe different ways in which violence upon women during gynaecological exams are justified — the norm of women remaining a virgin until marriage is one of them. The anti-abortion stance of the government, which has de-facto stopped state hospitals from performing an abortion on demand is another source of gynaecological violence. Sexual harassment during gynaecological exams is yet another source, especially in the cases where perpetrators try to gaslight women by arguing that the harassment was a part of the gynaecological exam. Finally, ignoring women’s autonomy over their body, and performing medical exams without their consents must also count as gynaecological violence.

Gynaecological violence could manifest itself as phycological attacks of the doctors and nurses such as verbally assaulting women for not being virgin or making them extremely uncomfortable through their actions. It could manifest in the form of physical violence such as not using lubricants during vaginal exams, inserting the devices or fingers without warning, too fast and with extreme force. Gynaecological violence could continue outside the examination room, for example, when the doctor violates patient-doctor confidentiality and discloses women’s illness or pregnancy to their families or to others.

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