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SEMİH İDİZ

SEMİH İDİZ > The topic not discussed

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As in many countries, the abortion debate in Turkey is not an easy one. Remarks by supposedly sensible adults in positions of responsibility, who are declaring that “even raped Bosnian women did not have abortions” or that “a woman should kill herself and not the baby,” indicate the level to which the issue has sunk.

Regardless of whether they are male of female, however, there is one issue that all sensible people can agree on. Namely, that abortion is not a form of contraception. The central issue that is not being discussed in Turkey, as this whole debate rages on angrily, is embedded in this observation. We are talking about sex education, and the question of birth control that can not be separated from it.

It is hard to say that Turkey has a healthy society when it comes to the issue of sexuality. Our papers are full of shocking news every day about violations against females, some involving mass rape perpetrated against young girls who are mere children. But the problem goes way beyond such crimes and involves the normal male and female on the street.

Turks live in a country that is rapidly industrializing, and where the overwhelming majority of the population is in urban centers and is thus subject to the sociological realities of city living. Another highly significant characteristic of Turkey or relevance here is that it has one of the largest populations of young people in the world.

This inevitably brings the issue of “sexuality” to the fore. In the meantime, whether the conservative element in society likes it or not, the traditional family structure of the country is breaking down. This is not unique in a society that is rapidly industrializing and urbanizing, and many countries have gone down this path.

It is inevitable in a society such as this that young women should not want to be trapped at home in traditional roles, and should instead be aiming for professional careers that give them independence. It is also a fact that many women in Turkey have to work out of necessity, in order to help maintain their households.

In the meantime, given these changes in the country, educated young men who are living in an industrialized and urbanized society also want to enjoy the advantages of modern living. This of course entails types of relations with the opposite sex that are more liberal than was the case when society was still traditional.

In today’s Turkey it is also not strange to see young girls with Islamic headscarves going to movies, restaurants or concerts, or sitting at public parks hand in hand with their boyfriends. Given this situation, the importance of sexual education that also enhances respect for the opposite sex also increases.

Apart from this, most young people naturally enough also want to get married one day and raise families. But they want to do this in a way that is in harmony with their modern lifestyles and in a timely and controlled manner, so that raising a family does not interfere with their careers. This inevitably raises the question of birth control.

The problem is that while the abortion debate rages on, no one is discussing these crucial issues. As matters stand, the abortion debate itself is merely a reflection of the deepening political divisions in this country. The real question, however, is whether the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is in a position to do what is necessary to increase sexual awareness and knowledge about birth control methods.

Given Prime Minister Erdoğan’s “demographic fantasies” and the immature remarks emanating from various AKP quarters concerning the issue of abortion, it would seem not. The problem for the AKP, however, is that whether it likes it or not, these issues do not simply go away. Unless addressed, they begin to fester in the kind of society that Turkey has become, and one inevitable outcome of this is an increase in “back room abortions.”

June/05/2012

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