Frustration and hope grow for women’s rights in Turkey
Being a woman is not easy in any part of the world. Playing fields in almost all walks of life - from schools to businesses – are almost always titled in favor of males. Even in the world’s most developed countries men are paid more than women. However, in some countries the situation for women is only getting worse.
Turkey has never been a haven for women. Millions of women have grown up in families that do not allow their daughters or sisters go out or go to school. Many women have been beaten by their husbands, brothers or fathers. Some women have been killed simply for rejecting their sexual harassers.
In the last couple of years there has been a significant increase in brutal attacks on women and children in Turkey. In 2017 alone a total of 409 women were killed in Turkey, according to data compiled by the “We Will Stop Femicide” women’s rights platform. Some 337 women were subjected to sexual violence, based on reported cases alone.
According to a recent poll conducted by Istanbul’s Kadir Has University, violence is by far the biggest problem that people think women face in Turkish society in 2018. Some 61 percent of respondents said they believe “violence” is the most important problem women face in society, according to the poll conducted by the university’s Gender and Women’s Studies Research Center. In the last year’s poll, the rate was 55 percent.
Recent years have witnessed a number of horrible crimes against women. In 2015, a 20-year-old college student, Özgecan Aslan, was killed by a minibus driver while resisting to rape.
Harassment also remains a common occurrence on the street. Last year, a woman was attacked in Istanbul only for wearing shorts on a public bus.
These incidents are partly the result of a rising discourse in the society; namely, the solidifying of the status of women in society “as a second class citizen.” This discourse has found a generous room to grow through various ideological instruments, including television programs.
Dozens of sexist preachers have appeared, claiming that “women are evil” or “it is religiously legitimate to marry with very young females.”
This trend does not have only one cause but many. However, not taking precaution and not giving punishment are the most important reasons.
In women murders, trials without arrest and remission are quite common.
All of these negativities have led to an enormous reaction in society as well in Turkey, a country of deep paradoxes. Many non-governmental organizations and companies have recently started to voice their reactions very loudly to all the wrongdoings done to women and children.
In the wake of the International Women Day March 8 this year, dozens of NGOs and universities published their research on women and announced proposals on how things can improve.
For instance, a study by the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TÜRKONFED) showed on March 7 that nearly 120,000 women need to leave their jobs to take care of their children or elderly family members on an annual basis in Turkey.
Social security programs must be formalized to allow women to keep up with their professional work life as well as carry out care responsibilities in their private lives, the report has recommended.
Dozens of companies have made campaigns to boost women’s empowerment.
U.N. Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia Alia El-Yassir recently told Hürriyet Daily News that Turkey was number one in 2017 in the number of companies signing up to the U.N.’s Women Empowerment Principles.
The response of a Turkish actor, Mehmet Aslantuğ, to a TV presenter, who focused on male dominance in society, became a trend topic on social media.
Emphasizing the importance of women’s economic freedom, Aslantuğ said: “Any woman who stays out of the labor force leaves the whole future of herself to the conscience, love, sincerity or faults of a man.”
Bad developments seem finally to be leading to hope for women, which account for the half of the population. The Turkish government has announced that it is working on new regulation that could eliminate the reduction of sentences for good conduct in cases of sexual abuse and violence against women.
Businesses seem to be racing each other to employ more women.
It is now time for Turkey to do more to implement these promises.