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SPOT: Turkey’s modernization is confronted with the need for a rejuvenated perspective, but the current government displays a genderbiased perspective. Women’s struggle towards becoming equal and free individuals has progressed considerably both in the world and in Turkey. Yet, despite positive developments, there is still a long way to go. This article is about the developments shaping women’s demands and expectations in Turkey, and how these could be connected to a ‘’new phase of modernization”. -
Modernization, Turkey and women
The history of the achievement of women’s rights in Turkey constitutes a significant part of the country’s modernization process. In fact, women’s struggle for emancipation in Turkey dates back to the 1860s and continued in various forms to the late 1910s when this aspiration coincided with the “Modern Turkey” objective of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his companions. In fact it became a significant part of the latter’s modernization project.. In terms of universal women’s rights Turkey made a strong early jump following the creation of the Republic. It then experienced a process which, even considering the delays which prevailed in some instances, was in very broad terms parallel to global developments, including the demands of the second wave women’s movement with respect to the fight concerning violence against women and the institutionalization of equality. Today, Turkey’s modernization process in general is confronted with the need for a rejuvenated perspective. Women’s current demands in the realm of equality and freedom would be expected to hold a significant place in this perspective. It will be particularly important for social democrats to prepare the clearest and most effective answers in this domain, and to realize them in close contact with the women’s movement. SPOT: Despite protective legislative changes, violence against women has not decreased in Turkey; each day five women are killed on average. SPOT: Educational indicators concerning women in Turkey reflect a bleak future for them. SPOT: These negative developments also go hand in hand with regressions in a number of basic democratic structures, most notably the judiciary. SPOT: We, as citizens, have to reflect deeply on how violence against women and acts of murder targeting them could possibly reach such terrible dimensions. 1
Turkey’s dangerous points of inflexion
Member of CHP’s Party Council (2012-), Secretary General of CHP’s Women’s Branch (2010-2011), member of various women’s NGOs, (1975-), expert in social policy, planning and gender issues.
Among married women above the age of 15. this is because the Female Labor Force Participation Rate remains only around 25-30 %.000 girls still do not participate in compulsory schooling. so much so that even some members of the government cannot refrain from expressing concern about this state of affairs. In the health factor classification of the study. and the mentality with which it approaches women’s issues is based on the concept of “unfair treatment. Above all. Even more disturbingly. This extremely low rank is primarily due to the deficiencies prevailing in the domain of participation. In fact. Turkey ranked 126th out of 134 countries overall. each day five women are killed on average in Turkey. and two fifths in Turkey. The perception of illegal phone tapping is widespread. in the last 10 years we have been facing a problem that only gets worse after every general election. had it not been for the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) opposition. in 2011.” which was recently passed unilaterally by the government. the word “women” was erased from the ministry whose functions comprise women’s issues. it has created undesirable long term consequences. Furthermore. Any independent observer would confirm this.. The revised law is still very flawed in this respect and several other critical aspects. And Turkey ranks 99th in political participation. During discussions concerning the amendment . This puts prospects for a democratic constitution in serious danger. Among the reasons for the latter rank is the fact that there are approximately 4 million illiterate adult women in Turkey. the “yes” vote in the same referendum has also led to the practical elimination of the judiciary’s independence. and it has emerged at a time when the preparation of a new constitution is under way. . Prime Minister Erdoğan openly declared that he didn’t believe in gender equality. Even the situation of a large share of those with education is problematic. Moreover. A most disconcerting example is the ¨4+4+4¨education law mentioned above. but 109th in education. the educational law known as “4+4+4. One of the consequences of the constitutional referendum of September 2010 has been the effective elimination of women from the high courts. Turkey was in a relatively better 61st place. in the new system concerning ministries introduced by the DecreeLaws enacted in the year following the referendum.e. but educational indicators concerning women in Turkey reflect a bleak future for them. Turkey’s worst rank was in economic participation and equality of opportunity. during a meeting with women’s organizations at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul.Can there be a change of mentality under this government? In July 2010. despite the fact that it is of their own making. where it came 131st out of 134. Very significantly. i. education means the future. In the knowledge-driven era that the world has entered. the situation of the judiciary is worsening every day. This problem is that the leader of the party in power does not believe in gender equality. However. and 500. In fact the opposition had demonstrated before the referendum the inevitability of this consequence in case of a yes vote.In the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2010 Global Gender Gap Index. In fact. the proportion of those who have been subjected to violence at least once in their lives is one third in the world.” rather than “rights. Although there have been subsequent attempts to mitigate the effect of this statement. one quarter in Europe as a whole. Moreover. This means that at least eight million Turkish women have been subjected to violence. the government is acting unilaterally and undemocratically in most critical fields. looked set to effectively exclude women from compulsory education. We witnessed important improvements in legislation starting in the middle of the 1990s.
the CHP carries a different meaning in terms of women’s struggle for equality and freedom and is much closer to becoming an effective “guarantor of rights” and a “voice of hope” for all women. especially those relating to children. Now. dialogue with civil society organizations has been severely restricted.of the law on the struggle against violence in the family. have to reflect deeply on how violence against women and acts of murder targeting them could possibly reach such terrible dimensions. Turkey’s membership of the EU constitutes a long standing major objective for our country. scheduled for 2014. most notably the judiciary. is a promising development for us women. We. The EU furthermore failed to make any tangible correction to this ill advised stand after the referendum even though unequivocal evidence regarding notably the loss of independence of the judiciary has continued to accumulating further. the Zeitgeist as he put it. and the corresponding process is expected to be mutually beneficial for both parties. while in harmony with the modernizing vision of Atatürk and the founders of the Republic. are very disturbing. which reached a new stage during the recent party congress in July 2012. the CHP President Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu put forward a new perspective for modernization. He has depicted a process which. In his speech at the congress. will also encompass all the changes necessary to fully catch the spirit of the time. This has been deeply disappointing for women who are struggling for the protection and advancement of freedom and equality. the governing AKP’s attitude in the domain of gender equality has become clear. as citizens. On the basis of the evidence pointing to the negative trend of change. one would also expect that the EU does not continue to infringe its own fundamental principles to the detriment of both the EU and Turkey. The 34th Party Congress was the first one since the change in the party constitution ensured a 33 % quota for women delegates. and these negative developments also go hand in hand with regressions in a number of basic democratic structures. . which ignored all the evidence-based warnings and criticisms regarding its unqualified support for the AKP in favor of a “yes” vote ahead of the 2010 constitutional referendum has been disquieting. including for those who feared an overemphasis on it. as well as a number of official reports. how secularism. and some of the elected are leading members of Turkish women’s organizations. Expecting a change of mentality on the part of the government is not realistic. The attitude of the EU. All this shows that a new phase has been reached in terms of the regression of women’s rights. - The change in the CHP reflects the voice of a new hope The change in the CHP. which are so significant and have contributed much to developments in the field of women’s rights. Some of the judicial verdicts concerning rape and the murder of women. together with democracy. In this context. constitutes an indispensable factor in guaranteeing women’s rights. It has also become even clearer. Such an attitude is also impossible to reconcile with basic EU norms and principles. A large number of women participated in the race for membership of the governing bodies. condone and directly or indirectly encourage the dangerous regressive trend in women’s rights witnessed in public life while also often including expressions disregarding the importance and value of the Republic in terms of women’s rights. Yet the declarations of a number of ministers and MPs of the ruling party. The government’s stance on abortion has also been very worrying. A similar quota of 33 % will be applied in the forthcoming local government elections.