Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Robin L. Leidner

Second Advisor

Emily C. Hannum


The twenty-first century started with a wave of legislative reforms that transformed many aspects of law, including the Criminal Code in Turkey. Despite progressive changes in the sexual assault law, however, cases of sexual violence did not meet the expectations of women’s rights groups, gave rise to a variety of novel issues for feminist activists and lawyers alike, and increasingly became a matter of public debate in the country. In this dissertation, I offer a feminist socio-legal analysis of the sexual assault law with a focus on its three aspects, namely its making, practice, and effects. I base my analysis on an extensive fieldwork, which consists of court observations, in-depth interviews, and a close reading of legal texts. I show that, within the frame of the conservative politics of the AKP, the legal reforms contributed to the pathologization of sexual violence and framing of it as a moral issue that is to be almost exclusively dealt with by the punitive instruments of the state. With a focus on the article that stated that if the “victim” suffers physical or mental damage as a result of the sexual assault, the sentence is to be aggravated, I examine the production of expert knowledges in these cases. I argue that sexual violence came to be redefined as a form of violence that can be traced and evidenced through the examination of the minds of, thus is “psychiatrized.” I also demonstrate that while the law perceives survivors of sexual violence to be innately and permanently traumatized, it also expects survivors to be articulate and consistent in their actions and statements to be recognized as credible complainants. Lastly, I argue that the construction of legally recognizable subject positions for survivors of sexual violence excludes many forms of subjectivity. This study contributes to and advances the law and society and sociology literatures by exploring the gendered workings of state institutions in cases of sexual violence. I discuss the implications of these findings for the relationship between the criminal law, sexual violence, and feminist politics, and also for legal and policy efforts aimed at preventing gender violence.


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