Whose mother is a dictator?
The question is not mine. It is not even a question. It is an open curse to womanhood. These are the gentler version of the words tweeted by one of the chief advisers of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in response to a French journalist who accused the president of being a “dictator.” One expects a more sober and sensible response from the people that live on our tax payments, even a smarter approach if she is a seasoned journalist. But no, sometimes people lose their mental abilities in the hallways of power.
So it is not surprising to see the latest attempt to legalize underage marriage even though the AK Party pulled it back at the last minute.” The AK Party’s women MPs claim the party has “done so much” for the betterment of girls and women in Turkish society. But the numbers do not agree. Women’s participation in the workforce is stuck at 30 percent – an incredible shame to Turkey’s secular republic. Childhood marriage has skyrocketed to 25 percent among the entire child population. According to Murat Gezici, a respected pollster, among the married children, 65 percent of them are between 15 and 18, and 35 percent of them are between 12 and 15 years old.
Let’s put this into flesh and blood. Imagine a girl from a well-off, very conservative family from Üsküdar or Fatih in Istanbul, not rural Anatolia. If she is “voluntarily” getting married at the age of 15, she probably does not know anything about Turkey before the AK Party. She is probably clueless about how women fought for their rights and sometimes died for them, not only in the world but in Turkey as well.
Despite the maneuver to pull it back to the commission, this administration has managed to raise a generation of young girls who would be happy staying at home, bearing a child or maybe three and not working and not going to school, just like the one above. They are, after all, happy consumers of shopping malls if they are rich, and happy dependents of government aid if they are poor. This is a nice voter base that will stay loyal to the “cause.” This is the true social engineering that the AK Party wants. But sorry, not all conservative women are happy with it. Tell this to Ayse Böhürler or ask Sümeyye Erdoğan, and you will get a huge slap in your face. Neither would the young women who are enjoying the rights of going to universities with headscarves. Their sisters and mothers fought for this. They lost years, careers and hopes along the way. They will not yield so easily.
Turkey’s not-so-desperate-housewives are fascinated by the “matchmaking shows” on daytime television these days. There, they see women who crash and burn their young suitors, dress fancily, wear make-up, shed a tear here and there, and ta-tam, at the end, tie the knot. The negotiations revolve around the number of houses the groom has, the retirement package he has, whether he would be able to buy her a big, 15-carat diamond ring. This is the reality of the AK Party’s new Turkey.
Under these circumstances, underage marriage is naturally glorified. So my resentment is not with the male lawmakers in the Turkish parliament who overnight faced the reality of underage marriage = childhood rape. It is to my former colleague and an old friend who works very hard in Beştepe while raising a girl and blasting French journalists.