Back to WHKMLA Main Index .
WHKMLA, Students' Papers Main Page .
WHKMLA, Students' Papers, 14th Wave Index Page
Gender Issues in the History of the Republic of Turkey
The Discrepancy between Modern Legal Institutions and Traditional Social Customs
Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
Kim, Min Ju
Research Paper, Fall 2011
Table of Contents
III. Method of Study
IV. Historical Context
V. Revised Legal Institutions of the Republic of Turkey concerning women
V.1. Ataturk Reform
V.2. Legal Reforms in the late 20th century
V.3. Turkish Civil Code Reform in 2001
V.4.Turkish Penal Code Reform in 2004
VI. Current Situation, Customs and Perceptions
VI.1. Modern Turkey
VI.2. Traditional Turkey
VII.1. Discrepancy between Institution and People
VII.2. Causes of the Discrepancy
VII.3. Impact of the Discrepancy
Among Middle Eastern countries, Turkey is recognized as modern and westernized. Ataturk¡¯s Reforms transformed the country¡¯s legal institutions into modern ones by the abolition of traditions and conventions along with the active promotion of western laws and practices. However, the actual situation in Turkey, the social customs and the consciousness of the people were slow to follow the legal reforms. Furthermore, Turkey became to bear two distinct types of society in itself, a relatively modern one and a traditional one. The western part of Turkey generally turned into a liberal European-minded society while the eastern part was far from change. The discrepancy between the modern legal institutions and social customs of Turkey, both modern and traditional ones, is especially evident in gender issues, which is the focus of this paper. I will explore the historical context, modernization of legal institutions, and the resulting modern Turkey as well as the traditional Turkey. In the analysis, the last part of this paper, I will discuss the apparent discrepancy between modern legal institutions and traditional social customs in the Republic of Turkey, and analyze the causes and impacts of the discrepancy.
Legal institutions refer to the constitution and laws enacted by the government, in this paper, of Turkey.
Social customs refer to the conduct and consciousness of the people.
Turkey, in this paper, refers to the Republic of Turkey.
Modern Turkey and traditional Turkey do not differ in terms of timeline but differ in terms of regions, cultures, and social atmosphere. Regional differences in Turkey stem from the peculiar geographic features of the country, a terrain serrated by many mountains and irrigated by few navigable rivers, isolation of the rural area from social, economic and political life of Ottoman Empire, and the generally poor means of transport and communication.
(1) These regional differences continued into mid-twentieth century, and the rural-urban differentials were aggravated by the rapid modernization that proceeded in the larger cities of Turkey. Therefore, the country has two distinct identities, a modern one and a traditional one. Modern Turkey refers to the parts of the country shaped by modernization, and Traditional Turkey refers to the parts of the country where modernization has affected life on a superficial level while age-old tradition still largely determines daily life.
III. Method of Study
First, modernization of legal institutions will be discussed based on the constitution, civil codes, penal codes and enacted laws, which can be studied through written document and legal reports. To reflect the reality of the Republic of Turkey in the paper, I have divided the country into modern and traditional Turkey. I will take a close look first at modern Turkey and discuss its social aspects both congruous and incongruous with the legal institutions. Moving on to traditional Turkey, I will also look for social aspects both congruous and incongruous with the legal institutions. The study of social aspects is based on texts analyzing Turkish society, documentaries, films, news articles, interviews, statistics, and so on. The focus of every discussion is the gender issue.
IV. Historical Context
After World War I, the Turkish War of Independence was waged under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha to prevent the implementation of the Treaty of Sevres. As a result, in 1922, the new Turkish state was established and the newly founded parliament formally abolished the Sultanate. Mustafa Kemal became the first president of the Republic of Turkey and introduced a series of political, legal, cultural, social and economic reforms aimed at modernizing and westernizing the new Republic of Turkey into a democratic and secular nation-state. The fundamentals of the reform were abolition of the office of the Ottoman Sultanate in 1922, proclamation of the Republic in 1923, and abolition of the office of Caliphate held by the Ottoman Sultan in 1924. One significant change brought about by the reforms was the end of millet system through which people formed millets and traditionally enjoyed a degree of autonomy under their own leadership and their own system of religious and cultural law. Moreover, the Islamic courts and Islamic canon law were replaced by a secular law structure base on the Swiss Civil Code.
Another societal element that changed radically through the reforms is female status. Ataturk himself stated "The social change can come by first, educating capable mothers who are knowledgeable about life; second, giving freedom to women; third, a man can change his morals, thoughts, and feelings by leading a common life with a woman; as there is an inborn tendency towards the attraction of mutual affection" (2) On 4 October 1926, the new Turkish civil code which was modeled after the Swiss Civil Code of 1907 and stated equal rights for women as men passed. On 5 December 1934, Turkey granted full political rights to women, before several European nations did, including France in 1944.
V. Revised Legal Institutions of the Republic of Turkey concerning women
V.1. Ataturk Reform
Ataturk Reform brought about radical changes to the Turkish legal institutions.
Firstly, the Constitution of 1924 was enacted. The basic principle of equality and rights of all Turks under the law regardless of class, gender and religion was established. Article 69 states that all Turks are equal before the law. Article 71 states that the life, the property, the honor and the home of each and all are inviolable. Article 75 states that no one may be molested on account of his religion, his sect, his ritual, or his philosophical conviction, allowing religious freedom. Article 87 states that primary education is obligatory for all Turks and shall be gratuitous in the government schools, suggesting the right of receiving education for both men and women.
Secondly, the new Turkish Civil Code of 1926 based on the Swiss Civil Code was established, replacing the Islamic courts and Islamic canon law. The 1926 Code articles worked as essential reforms against the customary conducts of religious society, especially in regards to family law. Regulations concerning marriage were modified. The age of consent for girls changed from nine to fifteen, for boys from eleven to seventeen. The custom of the dowry paid by the bridegroom to the bride's family, which is the relic of a patriarchal society, became legally invalid. Polygamy and marriage without the consent of both partners were made illegal. Article 93 states that one must prove that any prior marriage had ended in order to get married. Article 112 Paragraph 1 states that if either of the spouses were married at the time of entry into marriage, a marriage would be void. Any betrothal of children by their parents at birth was made legally unacceptable. Articles 90 and 91 state that girls younger than 15 and boys younger than 17 can only marry if they themselves consent and have the consent of their parent or guardian. If the girl is forced to marry against her will, the marriage can be annulled under Article 118. Furthermore, divorce was made equally obtainable by either sex through application to a court of law, thus abrogating the husband¡¯s absolute right on divorce. Divorce could be filed only under the judicial system based on the enumerated grounds.
Thirdly, official measures were taken to abolish the wearing of religious clothing and other explicit signs of religious affiliation. As a result, wearing of some elements of traditional clothing became limited by a series of laws, beginning in 1923. However, the legislation did not explicitly ban veils or headscarves but concentrated on prohibiting fezzes and turbans for men, for example, through the Hat Law of 1925. In 1934, "the law of prohibited garments" was passed, banning religious clothing, such as the veil and turban, while actively encouraging western-style attire.
Fourth, the right to vote in municipal elections was given to women on March 20, 1930. By the constitutional amendment on December 5, 1934, women gained suffrage for parliament elections. Turkish women who participated for the parliament elections as a first time on February 8, 1935 obtained 18 seats.
The 1926 Code kept the patriarchal family structure intact. The minimum age for all other legal procedures for girls except marriage was 18. Article 152 designates the husband as the head of the marriage, granting him the ultimate right over the choice of domicile and children and laying the foundations for discrimination against women. Article 153 requires a wife to take her husband¡¯s surname. Article 159 requires the husband's permission for a wife to gain the right to work outside the home although the wife could seek such permission from the courts alternatively.
The Turkish Penal Code included unfair provisions for women. Rape was classed as a crime not against the individual but against the general customs, rules and family order of society. That is, sexual offences were regulated under the section ¡°Crimes against Society¡± in the sub-section "Crimes against Public Morality and Family." (4) This classification reflects a patriarchal belief that women¡¯s bodies and sexuality do not belong to themselves but to their families or society. Moreover, the penal code included several indications of patriarchal constructs by using such words as chastity, morality, shame and decency. To give an example, crimes of rape and sexual abuse were defined as "forced seizure of chastity and attack on honor." Killing of a newborn child born outside marriage by the mother received a reduced sentence, for this crime was regarded as an act of cleansing the woman¡¯s honor. Article 438 provided for a reduction of one third in the punishment for rapists if the victim was a sex worker. Article 441 states that a married man could not be convicted of fornication unless it was proved that he was living together with a woman outside marriage while for women, one complete sexual act was sufficient for conviction of fornication. The penal code did not contain special provisions pertaining to the use of violence against women in marriage as opposed to the statute books of the US and Europe. There was no legislation specifically addressing the issue of a girl undergoing sexual abuse in the family. (5)
V.2. Legal Reforms in the late 20th century
Article 153 of the Civil Code was amended in May 1997; a woman can now choose after her marriage to either continue to use her surname in front of her husband¡¯s surname or take her husband¡¯s surname.
Article 159 of the Civil Code was repealed by the Constitutional Court of 29 November 1990. A woman is no longer required to get permission from her husband in order to be able to work outside the home.
Article 441 of the Turkish Penal Code was repealed by the Turkish Constitutional Court in December 1996 on the grounds that differences in the definition of fornication for the wife and the husband violated Article 10 of the Constitution which states that men and women must be equal before the law. This annulment appeared in the Official Gazette on 12 December 1996. A year was given to write a new legislation pertaining to fornication by men; however, a new law was not prepared after the given period, and fornication became a crime only for women and ceased to be a crime for men. Since this situation caused legal discrimination between men and women, Article 440 which concerned fornication by women was also annulled on June 26th, 1998. Therefore, fornication is no longer a crime for both men and women according to the Turkish Penal Code, although it can be a ground for filing a divorce according to the Turkish Civil Code.
Virginity test is a traditional practice involving a violation of women¡¯s human rights and a violation of Article 17 of the Constitution, which states that, with the exception of medical requirements and circumstances delineated in legislation, no one¡¯ s bodily integrity may be violated. Following a series of protests from women¡¯s human rights groups, the Ministry of Justice issued a statute prohibiting virginity test on January 13, 1999 by differentiating it from legally required vaginal or anal examinations. The statute also states that women must not be examined for reasons of disciplinary punishment against their consent or in a manner which will hurt or torment them.
However, relevant authorities have used various provisions in the law to justify enforced virginity test. (6) For example, the Statute for Awards and Discipline in the High School Education Institutions of the Ministry of Education stated that the proof of un-chastity is a valid reason for expulsion from the formal educational system. Therefore, female students were subject to virginity test, a usual practice for gathering evidence of un-chastity. After women¡¯s groups took action, the Ministry of Education revised the phrasing of the Statute in March 2002 by removing the explicit reference to un-chastity. The revised statute now allows the expulsion of students whose behavior contradicts conventional social values and influences the educational atmosphere negatively.
Protection Order against Domestic Violence, established in 1998, enables a survivor from domestic violence to file a "protection order" against the perpetrator of the violence.
Article 438 of the Penal Code was repealed by the National Assembly, thereby eliminating a reduction of one-third in the punishments for rapists if the victim was a sex worker.
V.3. Turkish Civil Code Reform in 2001
The new Turkish Civil Code, which was approved by the Turkish Parliament on November 22, 2001 and came into effect on January 1, 2002, abolished the supremacy of men in marriage and thus established the full equality of men and women in the family. (7) The new Code ascertains that the property acquired during marriage is equally divided, acknowledging an economic value of women's labor for the well-being of the household, which was previously undervalued. It also establishes the legal minimum age for marriage which was 17 for men and 15 for women as 18 for both women and men. Moreover, Article 41 of the Constitution was amended in October 2001; the revised version redefines the family as "the foundation of Turkish society" "based on equality between spouses."
The new Civil Code has adopted a new legal approach to the family and women¡¯s role in the family. While the old Civil Code places women at a legislatively subordinate position in the family and assigns them with rights and duties defined in respect to the husband, the new Civil Code eliminates the patriarchal view on the family and defines it as a union based on equal partnership. The language used by the new Code also reflects the renewed concept. The terms, "the wife" and "the husband" are replaced by "the spouses." Furthermore, the legal language has been significantly simplified and outdated terminology removed and replaced by more comprehensible, modern terms, which make the law more accessible for everyone. The new approach to the family is reflected in several changes:
The husband is no longer the head of the family; spouses are equal partners, jointly running the matrimonial union with equal decision-making powers.
Spouses have equal rights over the family abode.
Spouses have equal rights over property acquired during marriage.
Spouses have equal representative powers.
The concept of "illegitimate children," which was used for children born out of wedlock, has been abolished; the custody of children born outside marriage belongs to their mothers. (8)
V.4.Turkish Penal Code Reform in 2004
The Turkish Penal Code Draft Law was approved by the Turkish Parliament Grand National Assembly on September 26th, 2004. Following three years of women¡¯s movement campaign from 2002 to 2004, the new Turkish Penal Code includes more than thirty amendments to lay out the foundations for gender equality and protection of sexual and bodily rights of women and girls in Turkey.
The following is the description of amendments in the new Penal Code relevant to women¡¯s human rights, excerpted from the website of Women for Women¡¯s Human Rights (WWHR) ? New Ways, an independent women¡¯s NGO in Turkey. (9)
Sexual offences are classified under the section ¡°crimes against individuals / crimes against inviolability of sexual integrity¡± instead of ¡°crimes against society / crimes against public morality and family¡± The definition of rape and sexual assault changed from "forced or consensual seizure/attack of chastity" to "any sexual behavior violating a person¡¯s bodily integrity." This constitutes a groundbreaking shift in the overall perspective of Turkish Penal Law, legally acknowledging women¡¯s ownership of their bodies and sexuality.
Progressive definitions of sexual offences are adopted, sexual harassment at the workplace is criminalized, and sentences for sexual crimes are increased. The definition of rape has been expanded to include anal and oral penetration, as well as the insertion of an object or any organ to the body. Psychological coercion is recognized as a means of coercion by the perpetrator and damage to the victim¡¯s psychological health is acknowledged as an aggravating circumstance. Sexual assaults under custody or by security forces, public officials or employers, by relatives or in laws are also regulated as aggravated offences. Sexual harassment is defined to include ¡°all harassment with sexual intent¡± and sexual harassment in the workplace, perpetrated both by superiors and co-workers, is explicitly recognized as an aggravated offence.
Provisions regulating the sexual abuse of children have been amended to explicitly define sexual abuse and remove the notion of "consent of the child" in sexual abuse. The old penal code did not acknowledge sexual abuse of children as a distinct crime, but rather regulated the crime under articles pertaining to rape and sexual assault. In the reformed penal code, sexual offences against children under fifteen have been aptly defined in a separate article entitled "Sexual abuse of Children." If the offence is perpetrated by parents, relatives, stepfathers, legal guardians, caretakers, teachers, and healthcare providers, it is considered an aggravated offence. Damage to the psychological health of the child is also acknowledged as an aggravating circumstance. Provisions assuming rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse of children can occur with the consent of the victim are also removed. In the old penal code, there were provisions assuming that sexual abuse of children could occur with their "consent," and foreseeing reduced sentences in such cases. In the reformed penal code, the notion which assumed that rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse of children could occur with the victim¡¯s consent has been eliminated and all references to consensual rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse of children have been removed.
Marital rape is criminalized. Marital rape was not acknowledged as a crime in the old penal code. The justification of the article regulating rape stated that marital rape did not constitute a sexual offence. Marital rape has explicitly been acknowledged as a crime in the reformed penal code. It can be prosecuted upon the victim¡¯s complaint.
Patriarchal concepts such as chastity, honor, public morality, public customs, shame or decency are eliminated from the penal code.
There are new measures to prevent sentence reductions granted to perpetrators of honor killings and "killings in the name of customary law" are regulated as aggravated homicide. In the old penal code, a general article regulating cases of "Unjust Provocation" was often misinterpreted by judges to cover murders committed in the name of honor and was used to grant sentence reductions to perpetrators. In the reformed penal code, the article has been amended to only include "unjust acts" and in the justification of the article, it has been explicitly stated this amendment was made to prevent its application to honor killing cases. Furthermore, "killings in the name of customary law" have been defined as aggravated homicide in the new penal code, which does not encompass all honor killings, however still constitutes a significant advancement.
Non-discrimination between virgin, non-virgin, married and unmarried women has been ascertained. The old penal code discriminated between virgin and non-virgin; or married and unmarried women, by regulating rape and abduction as aggravated crimes in case the woman was a virgin or married respectively. The provisions foreseeing more severe sentences if the rape victim is a virgin and if an abductee is married have been removed in the new penal code. The provision in the article on definitions, which made a distinction between ¡°women¡± and ¡°girls¡± is removed.
The article granting sentence reduction to the killing of the newborn child born out of wedlock by the mother is removed. The article in the old penal code offering a reduced sentence for the murder of a newborn out of wedlock by the mother has been removed. This provision was based upon the notion that a child out of wedlock would compromise a woman's and family's "honor" and thus such a murder could be legitimized.
Provisions legitimizing rape and abduction in case the perpetrator marries the victim have been abolished. The old Turkish Penal Code entailed articles foreseeing reduction or suspension of the sentence in case rape or abduction perpetrators married their victims. This was based on a notion it would be better for a woman to marry her rapist, as this could save her "honor," and marrying the victim would thereby undo the offence. These provisions, which also served to legitimize forced marriages, have been removed in the new penal code.
The article regulating "indecent behavior" has been amended only to include sexual intercourse in public and exhibitionism. This article foresaw criminalization of the so-called "indecent behavior," or "acts that severe others' feelings of "chastity," vague and subjective notions open to misuse by security forces and courts. The article was often used to prosecute sexual minorities on unfounded grounds. It could also be used to restrict women's sexual freedoms and rights. In the reformed penal code, the article has been amended only to penalize sexual intercourse in public and exhibitionism.
VI. Current Situations, Customs and Perceptions
VI.1. Modern Turkey
The West is the most advanced region of Turkey, and it is also the most densely populated and urbanized region, as it includes Izmir (the third largest city) and Istanbul (the country's largest city and one of the largest metropolitans of the world). (10) Similarly, the South of Turkey consists of fertile agricultural areas, industrialized areas such as Adana, and areas along the coastline with a developing tourist industry such as around Antalya.
According to the 2000 census, literacy rate is 80.6 % for women as opposed to 93.9 % for men, and current school enrolment at the primary level rates is 91.8% for girls and 100% for boys. Gender differences are still existent, but as a whole, they have vastly improved in modern Turkey. Although illiteracy rates show a decline from the Southeast to Northwestern region, migration from eastern to western regions carries the problem of female illiteracy from rural to urban areas. A large number of rural migrants settle in the squatter areas or gecekondular quarters - quarters of houses put up quickly without proper permission - of many cities. As a result, the problem of female illiteracy and lack of access to education becomes even worse.
Though gender inequality in education, literacy and school enrollment is improved, the lack of political representation by Turkish women is a persistent problem. According to Guler Sel, the chairwoman of the Haceteppe University Population Investigation Institution, there are developments in education, which should lead to more women seeking positions of authority in Parliament, but sadly, this is not the case. (11) According to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index 2009 on a scale where 0 means inequality and 1.00 equality, women in Turkey are at 0.10 for the number of Parliament positions held and at just 0.04 for the number of ministerial positions held. However, it is notable that slow progress is on its way; since 2007, the percentage of women in ministerial positions in Parliament for the AKP has more than doubled, from 4 percent to 10 percent.
Journal of International Women's Studies Vol. 12 #4 July 2011 carried out a survey on voting behaviors with 408 women living in Ankara. 90.0 % of the respondents voted. Yet it is important to note that until recent years, in most cases husbands told their wives who to vote for and that women voted corresponding to their husband¡¯ s wishes. In 1982, 11 % of women said they vote on their own and 53.4 % that they vote in line with their husband's wishes. (12)
The foremost issue when it comes to employment in urban areas is the high unemployment rate, especially of women. However, the government ignores the fact that the problem of low levels of employment we face today is essentially a problem of low employment levels of women or the exclusion of women from the labor market. (13) The number of women with only labor-intensive jobs like garment production has increased because of the government¡¯s policies since 1980 promoting export of labor- intensive products; however, those women often work in bad conditions of small workshops earning low wages without social security. The economic growth in Turkey between 1955 and 1990 created only 1.3 million non-agricultural jobs for women while creating around 7 million jobs for men, which means 5.5 times more jobs for men than for women. In the cities, only 1 out of every 5 women aged over fifteen is employed. As a result, the economic development process in regards to non-agricultural sectors such as industry and services involves a growth fostering gender inequalities.
Another issue is the huge gap even among women. To give an example, Yildiz Ay in Istanbul starts her day with two and a half hours of travel on four different buses across the suburbs to her work where she cleans hotel rooms. It was lucky for her to escape from a violent marriage and find a work when only a quarter of women in Turkey work, but the lack of choices was obvious since she had only four years of primary education. On the other hand, Dilek Bil also in Istanbul commutes on a boat from the Bosporus shore and is a former banker who now owns an advertising and marketing agency. She is not the only exception since more Turkish women are in the top management positions than women in most European countries, (14) Like in the case of Yildiz Ay and Dilek Bil, the contrast among different women is extreme even in the same city; while some enjoy rich opportunities and freedom as anywhere in Europe, some are trapped in the virtual domestic captivity. Because of the gap, it is easy for people to neglect what is behind the seemingly free city life.
Third issue is the traditional value system that still promotes gender segregation in the workplace and other public places in contrast to the legal system that guarantees equal work and pay opportunities for both women and men. Even urban, educated, professional women may encounter the persistence of traditional and religious values about gender roles among their seemingly modern, secular husbands. (15) Moreover, most sectors except for agriculture are dominated by men, making it more difficult for women to defy the conventionally accepted gender roles. For example, a typical entrepreneur in Turkey is a male aged 25 to 34 with a primary or high school education from a family with mid-level income. In this environment, only around 13 percent of urban women ever seriously consider working in business and almost half of those who start a business quit later. (16)
Forth issue stems from the fact that the traditional value system carries on to the new generation of not only men but also women. A 2008 poll by the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey illustrates that nearly half of urban women deem economic independence for women unnecessary; according to the psychologist Leyla Navaro, this reflects a heritage of patriarchy. Similarly, almost half of women aged between 15 and 19 believed that a woman's place was at home, near her children. This ratio was higher than the ratio of women aged between 40 and 49 and university graduates who believed that women belong at home. (17) Navaro speculates that ¡°the new generation is scared as they see the costs that were paid by those women who said business is first, family does not matter that much and that they might not want to experience the same difficulties.¡±
According to a 2009 report released by the Turkish government, 42% of women surveyed said they had been physically or sexually abused by their husband or partner. (18) Even in urban areas, domestic violence is a common abuse against women in Turkey. On July 24, 2011, hundreds of people gathered in Istanbul to call for the Turkish government to take more progressive actions to protect women from domestic abuse. Protesters carried mock coffins and wedding dresses along with signs bearing the names and faces of murdered women as they marched down one of the busiest pedestrian thoroughfares in Istanbul.
Honor killing follows families to cities. The Prime Ministry's Human Rights Directorate reported that the number of honor killings committed in Turkey rose to 220 in 2007. Most occurred in major cities, which illustrates the need to increase efforts to raise awareness on women's rights among urban migrants. (19) Mehmet Farac, who wrote a book on honor killing for the first time in Turkey (20), said, ¡°People put their traditions in their luggage, along with their pillows and sheets. Therefore they cannot break their ties with their society and traditions." Vildan Yirmibesoglu, the head of Istanbul's department of human rights said, "Families who move here are suddenly faced with modern, secular Turkey. This clash of cultures is making the situation worse as the pressure on women to behave conservatively is become more acute. And of course there are more temptations." As members of Turkey¡¯s younger generation, especially girls, become better educated and more exposed to the world through television and city life, they are increasingly rebelling against parents who cling to traditions that prohibit socializing with the opposite sex, choosing a husband or visiting freely with friends outside the home. (21) The growing social pressure on both generations has led to a drastic increase in the cases of murder, beating and other violence within families as well as suicide among girls and women.
VI.2. Traditional Turkey
The countryside of Central Turkey and the North of Turkey is isolated from the rest of the country because of, respectively, lack of infrastructure and high mountains and forests. The East of Turkey is the least developed region of the country. (22) It can be divided largely into an eastern and a southeastern part. The eastern part is highly mountainous, and so husbandry is the most important economic activity. The southeastern part is similar with the eastern part in respect to the lack of industrialization and infrastructure. Until recently, the villages in this region were characterized by their tribal structure and the authority of their religious leaders (Sheiks).
Gender differences in education are greater in rural areas than in urban areas. 30.8% of women in rural areas were illiterate while only 9% of rural men were illiterate in 2003. The most striking illiteracy rate is observed in the Southeast where 39% of women are illiterate, followed by the East and Black Sea regions where rates are 35% and 21% respectively. (23)
More importantly, conceptions on the gender roles are striking. In all of the regions, 53.8% of the countryside women agrees with the statements that ¡°important decisions should be made by men¡± and 49.1% with ¡°men are wiser than women¡± in 1998. 62.7% agrees that ¡°women should not argue with men¡±. Only with regard to the statement that ¡°it is better for a male child to have education¡± the proportion of women who agree is much lower, 37 %.
(24) The proportion of town women agreeing with those statements was clearly lower. Consequently, in traditional families, both men and women generally expect husbands to be dominant and wives to be obedient.
Practices of marriages were also incongruous with the laws. In 1998, 21.6% of countryside women got married below age 16, mostly in Eastern region (32.9%). Only 28.8% of countryside women arranged marriage themselves and 29.1% were in familial relationship with their husbands. Moreover, 34.6% paid dowry. (25)
Although agricultural employment is rapidly decreasing, agriculture continues to be the sector with the highest level of women¡¯s employment. According to the November 2008 data, 45 percent of female employment is agricultural employment. The decline in agricultural profits has led men to gradually leave the sector, contributing to the feminization of agriculture. In the rural areas, women carry on care services for their families as well as production activities such as production of bread, tomato paste, cheese, yogurt, and etc. at home, and also take part in agricultural production outside the home. Apart from agricultural sector, women mostly carry out the labor-intensive jobs in small and middle scale enterprises; their workload is usually heavier than that of the men. (26) In other words, women are subject to harsh working conditions and heavy workload, all in addition to their domestic labor.
Second issue is the unfair payment, or economic disadvantage for working women. A large number of women work in the fields of male members of their family without any payment. Moreover, the income they make through marketing and paid labor is usually confiscated by men. The laws regarding heritage which allows women to inherit lands and properties does not apply to most women, especially those in Eastern and Southeastern regions. Patriarchal traditions still oblige women to bear with legal rights favorable to men.
Third issue is the fact that 98 percent of the women in agriculture are not registered. Therefore, a significant number of rural women are excluded from the social security system. Furthermore, there are women who come from families with little or no land becoming migrant or temporary workers. They represent the most underprivileged group in agricultural employment. These workers, most of whom are Kurdish, suffer from not only ill treatment due to their ethnicity but also extremely low earnings, and dreadful working conditions. They live in patchy tents near the fields where there is a lack of clean drinking water and proper facilities like hygienic toilets and kitchen. In this poor condition, women carry out their lives, cooking and taking care of the children.
Forth issue is women¡¯s withdrawal from agricultural employment. Due to agricultural mechanization or migration to urban areas, many women recede from agricultural employment, but non-agricultural employment opportunities are highly limited for women. Thus, they either become a housewife or find informal jobs in the cities. The abolition of agricultural subsidies and the introduction of direct income support in 2001 have led to the demise of small scale producers and the steady decline in the number of agricultural production fields and animals. As a result, between 2001 and 2007, 1.164 million women working in agriculture mostly as unpaid family workers were excluded from agricultural employment; the rate of women¡¯s employment in rural areas decreased 10 points from 41 to 31 percent, while the non-agricultural unemployment rate of women in rural areas increased from 11 to only 19 percent. ((27) Despite a rapid decline in women¡¯s agricultural employment, the non-agricultural employment opportunities are hardly complementing the resulting gap.
Rural families who commit honor killings, especially in the eastern and southeastern parts of Turkey, believe they are doing so for religious reasons, according to Ayse Sucu, president of the Women's Religious Affairs Directorate and the head of women's programs at the Turkish Religious Affairs Foundation. (28) Many misinterpretations of traditional religion in regards to women result in traditional customs that are persistently practiced to oppress women. Moreover, in villages where most people are either related to one another or know each other in communities and people¡¯s relationships are limited to their narrow circle, honor killings occur more frequently and evidently. That is because, in a closed community, information and rumors about events spread very quickly, and people interfere with affaires which the family feels the pressure to do something about in order to redeem its ¡®honor¡¯. Another form of honor crime, "honor suicides" is on the rise after the penal code was reformed in 2005, adopting mandatory life sentences for honor killers, whereas in the past, honor killers could receive a reduced sentence by claiming provocation. Most honor crimes are committed in the Kurdish region, a desolate land devastated by years of war and oppression. Rural communities there are ruled under a strict feudal, patriarchal system. (29) For instance, Batman, a bleak town in the southeast of Turkey is one of the most patriarchal areas of Kurdish Turkey and has been nicknamed "Suicide City" for numerous cases of honor suicide. Three quarters of all suicides in Batman are committed by women as opposed to worldwide statistics which shows that men are three times more likely to kill themselves. Mustafa Peker, Batman's chief prosecutor explained that even though most of the suicide cases seem to be forced, they are almost impossible to investigate. According to Peker, "family council" mostly decides a woman's fate; family members gather to discuss infringements of honor, and settle on how the victim must be killed. If not forced suicide, then a killer is also selected. The youngest member of the family is often chosen, for it is believed that they will be sentenced more leniently if caught. There are three options, a noose, a gun or rat poison for women who are ordered to kill themselves. They are then locked in a room to do the job themselves.
VII.1. Discrepancy between Institution and People of Turkey
As seen in the above, it is evident that female status becomes higher from the rural areas to urban areas, from the east to the west. Almost 35 percent of the women in the countryside of Turkey have not completed primary education, while this figure drops to 25 percent for the towns. (30) The proportion of countryside women who did not complete primary education is highest in the East (64 percent) and lowest in the West (16 percent). In terms of female employment, urban women are exposed to more diverse opportunities than rural women who are normally limited to farm work. However, in general, women as a whole suffer from the discrepancy between the legal institutions and actual situation; wages and treatment at work are far from being equal to those of men, and in politics, where women are now free to actively participate, there still exist barriers both explicit and implicit. Moreover, physical abuses against women, which are to be regulated with various laws enacted, are far from being regulated in both rural and urban areas of Turkey. In urban areas, migrated families settle with traditional mindsets which result in conflicts with younger mindsets. Those conflicts often end up with blood; numerous honor crimes committed in big cities such as Istanbul clearly demonstrates so. Moreover, many of the domestic violence cases remain unreported. One of the significant reasons is because of the physical, psychological, and economic control of families over women. Because women both physically and psychologically depend entirely on family, or husbands for their protection and economic maintenance, it is inevitable for them to deter from reporting the abuses and to bear with them. Gaps between laws and practices, therefore, put women in not only unequal but also dangerous state in the society.
VII.2. Causes of the Discrepancy
The main cause of the discrepancy between the legal institutions and the customs of people in the Republic of Turkey is that the reforms or the modernization of the legal institutions were not driven by the people but by the state in the first place. The process of Ataturk¡¯s radical reform was characterized by a struggle between progressives and conservatives; on one side Ataturk and his reform-minded liberal elite, on the other the broad mass of uneducated, conservative common people. (31) Ataturk¡¯s reforms also led to the end of the millet system of religious or ethnic communities. Millet system allowed religious communities to enjoy a degree of autonomy, to live in accordance to their own system of religious and cultural law. However, the Ataturk reform abolished the millet system, replacing it with a secular state that introduced radical changes to centuries-long traditions, both religious and cultural. The radical changes in laws and administrations were not supported by proper education and reform of the minds of people. Therefore, Ataturk reforms and following reforms in the legal institutions have brought about improvements in Turkey¡¯s issue of gender inequality only with great disparity over different regions and different people. They have scratched only the surface of the gender inequality and women¡¯s issues; the root problem in the very perceptions of the people persists.
The consciousness of the people is not geared towards enforcing the laws by the state, especially when they go against the traditionally respected cultural and religious norms by which they had been ruled before Ataturk. Moreover, many people, both men and women, are not even conscious of the problems they have; women who believe in patriarchal system, men who believe in their power over women, both physically and mentally, fathers killing their daughters who have ¡®dishonored¡¯ the family, and mothers who do not resist the decisions made for their daughters¡¯ deaths all demonstrate so. Even if there are people conscious of the problems, there is a lack of representation of women¡¯s interests in the labor force, politics and other key areas. This overall lack of support for the reformed laws has led to the lack of the enforcement or implantation of the laws to a point where women cannot trust the state authorities. When women report family violence to police, law enforcement officers often prioritize preserving family unity, and push battered women to reconcile with abusers rather than pursuing criminal investigations or assisting women in getting protection orders. (32) In predominantly Kurdish southeast Turkey, fundamental mistrust of the state and police has been aggregated with years of regional conflict, further discouraging women from reporting violence. There are also practical barriers, such as lack of interpreters and limited opening hours of family courts, which deter women from filing for a protection order. The notion of ¡®family honor¡¯ is pervasive in almost every Turkish village, and honor killings aren't always thoroughly investigated because some police and prosecutors share the same perspective as the honor killers. When the police, prosecutors and even judges themselves do not believe in the values reinforced by the laws, gaps between laws and customs in Turkish society are inevitable.
VII.3. Impact of the Discrepancy
The most significant impact of the discrepancy is that the society becomes stagnant; no matter how much reforms the state undertake, there is no improvement in reality since the people whom the reforms are targeted at are actually unwilling to accept and implement the laws enacted. The World Economic Forum¡¯s Global Gender Gap Index rank of Turkey dropped significantly in 2007 from 105 to 121 and since then, Turkey has consistently been on the low section of the rank; it ranked 129th place out of 134 in 2009 (33). Moreover, as the younger generation is more exposed to modern ways of life and tends to go against traditional values, the older generation stuck in the traditional mindsets, remote from the modernized legal institutions as well as modernized younger minds, is likely to be raged and undertake radical measures, especially against girls. Clashes between the younger and older generations, modern and traditional generations are evident among migrated families in urban areas. Another result of the discrepancy is the lack of moral standards, or their ambiguity. When article 10 of the constitution states that ¡°Men and women have equal rights¡±, patriarchal households teach that men are superior to women; When article 17 states that "Everyone has the right to life", numerous girls are killed by families, and boys are often assigned to kill the girls.
This paper has looked at the law reforms and discrepant customs of people in traditional and modern Turkey in respect to women¡¯s status, their educational, economic and political opportunities, familial affairs, and violence against women. There were differences in forms and degrees of the discrepancy between the east and the west, and between traditional Turkey and modern Turkey; however, the discrepancy was apparent in both. The cause of the discrepancy stems from the historical fact that Ataturk reforms was not supported by the common people at the time; although they significantly improved gender inequality, the improvement remained at a superficial level, for the consciousness of the people did not follow the reform the legal institutions underwent. The enforcement of the laws also remained at a superficial degree, and therefore, the disparity between the laws and the people was inevitable. The impact of the discrepancy is clear; the country remains to be stagnant in terms of women¡¯s status; clashes of modern and traditional generations aggravate, and moral standards become vague.
The only solution that can be derived for this issue is the reform of the minds of the people: education and promotion of the right values. Even the police, prosecutors and even judges need to be educated on gender equality in order for legal institutions to be properly enforced. When people recognize the inhumane and unfair nature of some traditional value systems and the need for the promotion of gender equality can they finally realize the democratic state where ¡°Everyone possesses inherent fundamental rights and freedoms which are inviolable and inalienable¡± as the constitution states.
(1) Srikantan 1973 p.275
(2) Wikipedia Article: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
(3) Wikipedia Article: Women's Suffrage, Section: Turkey
(4) Women for Women's Human Rights, Section: Women's Human Rights in Turkey, Turkish Penal Code
(5) Arin 1997 p.19
(6) Turkish Civil and Penal Code Reforms from a Gender Perspective: The Success of Two Nationwide Campaigns. WWHR - NEW WAYS. 2005, p.59
(7) Women for Women's Human Rights, Section: Women¡¯s Human Rights in Turkey, Turkish Civil Code
(8) Turkish Civil and Penal Code Reforms from a Gender Perspective: The Success of Two Nationwide Campaigns. WWHR - NEW WAYS. 2005, p. 9
(9) Women for Women's Human Rights, Section: Advocacy and Lobbying on the National Level - The Campaign for the Reform of the Penal Code from a Gender Perspective http://www.wwhr.org/penalcode_reform.php
(10) Günüz-Hozgör / Smits n.d., p.3
(11) Hurriyet Dailey News 2009
(12) Caporal 1982 p.714
(13) KEIG 2009 p.5
(14) BBC 2011
(15) Country Studies, Turkey, 1996, Section: The Status of Women
(16) Hurriyet Daily News Articl, September 24, 2008
(17) Hurriyet Daily News Articl, September 24, 2008
(18) CNN July 24, 2001
(19) Turkey 2008 Progress Report
(20) National Criminal Justice Reference Service Section: Publications NCJRS abstract
(21) Washington Post August 8, 2001
(22) Günüz-Hozgör / Smits n.d., p.5
(23) Otaran 2003
(24) Günüz-Hozgör / Smits n.d., p.15
(25) KEIG 2009 p.4
(26) Günüz-Hozgör / Smits n.d., p.24
(27) KEIG 2009 p.5
(28) PBS 2008
(29) The Independent 2009
(30) Günüz-Hozgör / Smits n.d., p.12
(31) Wikipedia Article: Atatürk's Reforms
(32) Human Rights Watch May 2011 p.5
(33) Hausmann / Tyson / Zahidi 2010
Secondary Sources : Encyclopedic Sources
Secondary Sources : Academic Sources
Secondary Sources : News Articles
Secondary Sources : Socio-Political Discourse
(1) Metin Heper. Historical Dictionary of Turkey. Scarecrow Press. 2002
(2) WHKMLA: History of Turkey http://www.zum.de/whkmla/region/asmin/xturkey.html
(3) Turkish Constitution of 1924 (in English, without amendments as it was adopted; included in the commentary by Edward Mead Earl, The New Constitution of Turkey, Political Science Quarterly, Volume 40, Issue 1 (Mar. 1925), pp.73-100)
(4) Constitution of the Republic of Turkey (Constitution of 1982) (in English provided by the
University of Bern based on the text published by the Office of the Prime Minister) http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/tu00000_.html
(5) Official translation of the proposed changes by the Government in Turkish constitutional referendum, 2010, provided by Hurriyet Daily News
(6) Turkey, Country Studies, The Library of Congress, 1995, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/trtoc.html
(7) Wikipedia Article : History of Turkey
(8) Wikipedia Article : Women in Turkey
(9) Wikipedia Article : Mustafa Kemal Atatürk http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustafa_Kemal_Atat%C3%BCrk
(10) Wikipedia Article : Atatürk¡¯s Reforms http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atat%C3%BCrk's_Reforms
(11) Wikipedia Article : Women's Suffrage, Section: Turkey http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women's_suffrage#Turkey
(12) K. S. Srikantan, Regional and Rural-Urban Socio-Demographic Differences in Turkey, Middle East Journal Vol.27, No.3 (summer, 1973) pp.275-300. http://www.jstor.org/pss/4325097
(13) Edward Mead Earl. The New Constitution of Turkey. Political Science Quarterly, Volume 40, Issue 1(Mar., 1925), 73-100.
(14) Bernard Caporal, Kemalism and Turkish Women After Kemalism, 1982
(15) Janet Browning, Atatürk's Legacy to the Women of Turkey. Durham, U.K.: Center of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, University of Durham, 1985 http://dro.dur.ac.uk/158/1/27CMEIS.pdf
(16) Erdogan, Mustafa. "Islam in Turkish Politics : Turkey's Quest for Democracy without Islam." Critique 15(1999): 25-50
(17) Women for Women's Human Rights (WWHR) - NEW WAYS
(18) Canan Arin. The Legal Status of Women in Turkey. WWHR Report No.1. 1997 http://www.kadinininsanhaklari.org/images/legal_status.pdf
(19) The New Legal Status of Women in Turkey. Women for Women's Human Rights (WWHR) - NEW WAYS, 2002 http://www.kadinininsanhaklari.org/files/2_4.pdf
(20) Women's Labor and Employment in Turkey: Problem Areas and Policy Suggestions, April 17, 2009.
KEIG Women's Labor and Employment Initiative Platform
(21) Ayse Günüz-Hosgör, Jeroen Smits,
The status of rural women in Turkey: What is the role of regional differences,
Nijmegen Center for Economics (NiCE) http://www.ru.nl/publish/pages/516298/nice_06101.pdf
(22) Anil Duman, Female Education Inequality in Turkey: factors affecting girls¡¯ schooling, Central European University, 2009 http://smye2009.org/file/557_Duman.pdf
(23) Nur Otaran, A Gender Review in Education, Turkey. UNICEF. 2003 http://www.unicef.org/turkey/pdf/ge21.pdf
(24) Turkey 2008 Progress Report, Commission of the European Communities
(25) National Criminal Justice Reference Service Section: Publications NCJRS abstract https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/Abstract.aspx?id=187537
(26) Filiz Kardam. The Dynamics of Honor Killings in Turkey. United Nations Population Funds, 2005. http://www.unfpa.org.tr/turkey/rapyay/honorkillingsreport.pdf
(27) "He Loves You, He Beats You¡±" Family Violence in Turkey and Access to Protection, Human Rights Watch, May 2011
(28) Ricardo Hausmann, Laura D. Tyson, Saadia Zahidi, The Global Gender Gap Report 2010, World Economic Forum
(29) Ela Anil. Turkish Civil and Penal Code Reforms from a Gender Perspective: The Success of Two Nationwide Campaigns. WWHR - NEW WAYS. 2005
(30) "The Reception of Swiss Family Law in Turkey." Anthropological Quarterly 46 (1972): 100-16
(31) PBS News Hour Article:
"In Turkey, Degrees of Change in Women's Rights" Larisa Epatko, November 6, 2008. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/europe/turkey/women.html
(32) Hurriyet Dailey News Article:
"Lack of female politicians pulls Turkey down" Ceylan Yeginsu, October 27, 2009 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=lack-of-female-politicians-pulls-turkey-down-2009-10-27
(33) Hurriyet Daily News Article:
"Half of women say they do not need economic independence" September 24, 2008
(34) BBC News Video:
"Women in Turkey continue to struggle with gender gap" 8 March 2011
(35) CNN article:
"Marchers demand better protection for women in Turkey" Jeremiah Bailey-Hoover, July 24, 2001
(36) New York Times Article:
"How to Avoid Honor Killing in Turkey ? Honor Suicide" Dan Bilefsky, July 16, 2006 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/16/world/europe/16turkey.html?pagewanted=all
(37) Washington Post Article:
"In Turkey, 'Honor Killing' Follows Families to Cities; Womenare Victims of Village Tradition." Molly Moore, Wednesday, August 8, 2001 http://www.library.cornell.edu/colldev/mideast/dilberk.htm
(38) The Independent Article:
"Women told: 'You have dishonoured your family, please kill yourself'". Ramita Navai in Batman, Eastern Turkey, March, 2009
(39) Documentary: Honour Killings: Turkey. uploaded by someone using the id "unitednations" on YouTube in 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtUS_JSxnwI
(40) Film: Die Fremde (2010) directed by Feo Aladag
(41) Film: Ayla (2010), directed by Su Turhan
Back to WHKMLA Main Index .
WHKMLA, Students' Papers Main Page .
WHKMLA, Students' Papers, 14th Wave Index Page