The short unhappy life of the “Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men” in Turkey

Source: Open Democracy, by Ozlem Altiok

Policy aiming to address Turkey’s real and persistent problem of gender inequality must be formulated in consultation with feminists. Unfortunately, there is ample reason to doubt that a government that refuses to name a problem can solve it, says Özlem Altıok.

On October 14, Anadolu Ajansi (AA), Turkey’s official news agency, reported that “The Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men” (KEFEK) would be replaced with a “Committee on Family and Social Policies” as part of draft legislation to change parliamentary bylaws. A few weeks later –  because their attention was focused at the time on another piece of draft legislation dubbed the “women’s employment package” –  feminists called on the government to halt any such change until they could comment.

Given Turkey’s many pressing issues –  including what Deniz Kandiyoti calls atangled web of religion and politics that the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) helps to weave, and the unhappy marriage between democratizing reforms undertaken to facilitate Turkey’s accession to the EU and the repression of political dissent –  this issue may appear inconsequential. But what may seem like a simple change in name is important because it illustrates the fragility of the institutional mechanisms for protecting women’s rights and ensuring gender equality in Turkey.

There is some irony, too, in the fact that feminists now find themselves defending a name they did not initially like. When the Turkish parliament voted in January 2009 for the creation of a permanent “Committee for Equality of Women and Men,” feminists, who had worked for this outcome for a decade, felt victorious and happy. But their joy was dampened when, in a last minute maneuver, the JDP changed the name to “The Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men.”

In a fax signed by more than 100 women’s organizations, women’s rights activists objected that their goal was “equality in practice,” not “equality of opportunity.” Arguing that the state must ensure equality between women and men by taking positive action and instituting positive discrimination, women’s organizations urged parliament to keep the original name, which had enjoyed widespread support. Ultimately, they failed to remove “of opportunity” from the committee’s name.

So why does the change in the name of this parliamentary committee – one that women’s rights activists did not even like in the beginning – upset them today?

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End Sexual Harassment of Women in Custody

An article published by the Socialist Feminist Collective in line with Roj Women’s campaign to support women human rights defenders. Find out more about the plight of women human rights defenders in Kurdish regions at the hand of the State in our latest publication  ‘A woman’s struggle.
for annual report 2013
For some time now, mechanisms of oppression and regulation over our lives go against the life we wanted and longed for. We, women were at the forefront in the Gezi resistance for we were bound and determined to fight for our cause and press forward our demands. In the streets, we were exposed to a brutal form of violence, which we are actually acquainted with: police violence. We lost some of our friends during the resistance and some of us got heavily injured. We discussed for days about the unlawfulness of police violence and the destruction it caused. Meanwhile, government and state authorities such as the Police Chief, the Governor, the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Prime Minister, through their statements, repeatedly revealed that they are taking sides with the police and therefore manifested responsibility for the violence. Even the mainstream media, otherwise overlooking the significance of the events, had to pay attention to the disproportional use of violence by the security forces. The leadership of the Gezi resistance demanded the resignation of those responsible for deaths, injuries and the abuse of rights but state authorities only symbolically dismissed a few police officers and released the murderer of Ethem Sarısülük.
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A call to engender Turkey’s peace process

Turkey’s agenda for peace aims to overcome the decades-old Kurdish question and raise democratic standards. While welcoming this initiative, Yakin Ertürk questions whether the end of conflict will bring peace to women if gender equality issues are not adequately addressed.

Source: Open Democracy

Turkey has entered a political point in time with a strong drive for peace. This historic moment not only means ending the three decades of armed conflict that has hijacked efforts towards democracy, but it also means embracing a new social contract that transcends the current deadlock concerning particular Kurdish demands, and more general issues of national identity. While the prospect for peace is understandably received with a general enthusiasm and cautious anticipation by the public at large, a constructive dialogue within the parliament has not yet been forthcoming.

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Helping women is called ‘divisive activity’

Source: Feminkurd

The first hearing of an application by the Van Prosecutor’s Office to close down 10 organisations conducting activities within the city, including Van Women’s Association (VAKAD), was held in early April at the Van 3rd Court of First Instance. The case has been adjourned until 17 May 2013.  

The case statement which was submitted to the Van 3rd Court of First Instance and which contained reports by anonymous witnesses claimed that the organisations in question were instructed by other parties. Among these organizations was Van Women’s Association, which was founded in 2004 and the case file contains statements of anonymous witnesses about the organization as well as notes from the searches conducted.

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DİKASUM reveals its latest report on women’s issues in North Kurdistan

The Practical Centre of Research for Women’s Issues (DİKASUM) has been working under the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Council’s Women and Family Directorate for 12 years. Their latest report reveals many of the challenges and risks women face in North Kurdistan.

Source: Femînkurd

DİKASUM, which has prepared a report based on the profiles of 74 women who were admitted to the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Council’s Guesthouse for Women (women’s refuge), revealed that 58% of women suffer physical violence, 63.5% suffer psychological violence, 13.5% suffer sexual violence and 16.2% suffer economical violence.

The report was launched in conference room no. 2 at the Sümerpark Common Living Area in the presence of the Metropolitan Council’s Head of Social Services Semra Kıratlı, Director for Women and Family Ayten Tekeş, DİKASUM coordinator Özlem Özen and experts from DİKASUM.

DİKASUM coordinator Özlem Özen stated that 218 women had applied to the centre in the year 2012 and that these women were provided with counselling as well as psychological and legal support. She added that 74 of the women who applied to DİKASUM were admitted to the Women’s Guesthouse, together with the 51 children they had with them.

The report which is based on the profiles of these 74 women who were admitted to the Women’s Guesthouse  revealed that 48.6% of women had official marriage certificates, 24.13% did not, 18.9% were single and 8.1% were divorced. The report found that 33.8% of the women had arranged marriages, while 27% had married by their own choice and 20% had been forced into marriage. The report also revealed striking figures about the ages at which women got married. It was observed that 32.8% of women married before the age of 18 and 20.4% gave birth before that age.  Continue reading

Many girls in poor families, especially in the east and southeast of Turkey, married off

Women’s rights activist and lawyer Canan Arin was unlawfully detained on 23 June 2012 for speaking out against child marriages in Turkey. While her trial continues, she is living under permanent threat, but refuses to be silent. Open Democracy spoke to her.

Source: Association of Women in Development (AWID)

As an active lawyer and trainer you were invited to Antalya Bar Association to speak about violence against women. After your talk you were detained. What happened?

Canan Arin : I was the co-founder of the Istanbul Bar Association, Women’s Rights Enforcement Centre and worked as a trainer there.  The Antalya Bar Association was opening a Women’s Rights Enforcement Centre and the lawyers needed training. I gave a talk on violence against women in the form of early and forced marriages in the context of training.

I used two examples to illustrate my point. One was the Prophet who married a girl of seven. The second was the head of the Turkish Republic who was engaged to his wife, the first lady, when she was 14 and married her when she was 15. These are facts.  As I spoke, a group of young men got up and started shouting at me. They said I was insulting and going off the subject. I denied this and said they were free to leave the conference room, which they did.

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“Stop Stoning and Execution” conference releases a collective resolution

A conference held on 14th January in London by Roj Women’s Association, the International Free Women Foundation and the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq focused on stoning and execution in different parts of the world in particular Iran. A collective resolution was born out of it.

Speakers raised their concern about gross violations of women’s rights under Islamic Sharia Law and the politicization of religion. They explained that the immense sufferings women face are not limited to one country or a particular culture although they do differ from one place to another, in different contexts.

Murdering women through stoning and execution is sanctioned by all states and governments are responsible for creating cultures that make women’s life enjoyable. However, in many countries violence has become a routine which the society tolerates.

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20 Women killed in Turkey in October 2011

According to data compiled by bianet, 20 women were killed by men in October 2011. 22 women were wounded, seven women raped. From January to October 2011, a total of 226 women were killed and 93 were raped.

Source: Bianet

According to data based on reports in local and national newspapers and news agencies, a compilation made by bianet revealed that 20 women were killed by male perpetrators in October 2011. Two of the culprits committed suicide, one attempted to kill himself. One man surrendered to the police after the murder. Continue reading

Turkish court reduces sentences for men accused of raping 13-year-old

Human Rights groups have reacted with outrage after a Turkish court reduced the prison sentences of 26 men convicted for having sex with a 13-year-old girl because the victim had given “consent”.

Source: The Guardian

In a judgment this week, the court ruled that the sentence was based on the old Turkish penal code, under which rape of a minor could be punished with a minimum prison sentence of 10 years – unless the child consented. Continue reading

“Opening and Backsliding at the same Time”

Ann-Margarethe Livh from the Swedish Left Party said in interview that women in Turkey knew how to focus their struggle. “Even if most of these women are in jail because of the KCK trial, they will not give up”.

Source:BIA

Livh, President of the Stockholm Equality Commission, came to Diyarbakır to observe the KCK trial that was heard on 6 December. The Swedish politician closely follows human rights violations in Turkey and other countries and also keeps track of the women’s movement. Continue reading