An open letter to Turkey’s new women MP’s
Turkey’s newly-elected 98 female parliamentarians who have taken their oaths as of June 23,
Don’t forget you are women.
You don’t have to think and act like a man in what you might perceive to be a male-dominated world.
I am not sure whether you have entered parliament saying you will only represent women.
In fact, that might sound unfair to think of yourselves as the representatives of half a nation.
You might think of yourselves as representatives of the entire Turkish nation.
Continue to do so. But don’t forget that nothing, no subject that you will invest your time and energy into in parliament, can contribute better than your work for women for the general good of the country. Investing in women will mean investing in a peaceful society, in democracy; investing in women will mean investing in economic welfare, in future generations.
Start to act immediately! Be the first ones to show you mean business! Set short-, mid- and long-term strategies.
Start from Turkey’s biggest bleeding wound: violence against women. There is urgency. Men who kill women just because they are women benefit from several reductions. Just because they wore a tie and acted properly in the court room is enough for the male dominant justice system to grant them reduced punishments. The Turkish penal code needs to be amended as soon as possible to make sure femicides are included among crimes that cannot benefit from any reduction in sentences.
Fight against early marriage. Remember how a recent ruling by the Constitutional Court which no longer criminalized religious marriage without obtaining a civil marriage led to concerns this would raise the number of girls forced to marry during childhood.
Your mid- and long-term strategies should involve female empowerment via education and increased participation in the labor force.
Be bipartisan when it comes to woman’s issues, because that’s the shortcut to success and a quick outcome.
Join your hands for the good of the country. Appoint a women’s coordinator that will facilitate common action.
Dear female Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies,
Please don’t fall victim to your party’s policies that are sugar coated by your male colleagues as conservative family values. At least provide scientific arguments to their patriarchal views. Tell them for instance that in nowhere in the world has providing direct financing to woman to have babies succeeded as a way to increase population growth. Tell them well-subsidized daycares will boost birth rates as well as economic productivity, and thus growth rates.
Dear female Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies,
You must be feeling ashamed of the fact that a party with a religious conservative background has a larger group of women than yours. Your shame must have increased to see that a party that was not even sure it would make it into parliament, whose deputies are mostly from the eastern and southeastern part of the country and which does not champion on gender equality, has more women representatives than your party, which came second in the election.
That should put more pressure on your shoulders and thus you need to work twice as hard. I suggest you start from your own party as well. It’s a positive development to have a bright young deputy like Özgür Özel named as one of the CHP’s three parliamentary group deputy leaders. But you should have forced your way in to be one of the three.
In addition, try to avoid repeating the CHP’s general mistake. Don’t get cut off from the people. Be in touch with your entire female constituency. Lend them an ear. Don’t get stuck on the headscarf. Women’s real problems are larger than the headscarf issue.
Dear female Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies,
Your struggle deserves applause. Keep up the good work. Still, you cannot get a standing ovation so long as there are so many steps to be taken in solving women’s problems. Be more vocal on women’s issues and thus contribute to the HDP’s journey to become Turkey’s party.
Oh… I was going to forget the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Can’t you work a bit more on women’s issues so we remember there are at least four of you within the MHP? Is that too much to ask?
And ladies, please don’t forget to work with women NGOs. They constitute the most vibrant part of Turkey’s civil society. They are there to help you. They have all you need, scientific input, road maps, but above all good will to work together.