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Being a Woman in Turkey: Education, Religion and Social Life by Nesrin Oruç. QUIZ: ON WOMEN RIGHTS IN THE WORLD.
Where do you think the following has happened? “Women-only train cars have been introduced on X’s railways as a way of countering the grapping women on overcrowded trains.A. TurkeyB. Great BritainC. JapanD. USA
In France women got the right to elect and to be elected in 1944, the date is 1946 for Italian women. In which year do you think Turkish women gained the right to elect and be elected? A. 1934B. 1950 C. 1963D. 1980
Turkey was brought to the European Human Rights Court 1117 times in 2001. This is a very high number. How many appeals from the UK and Italy were made to the Human Rights Court in the year 2001?A. 30 for UK and 20 for ItalyB. 300 for UK and 400 for Italy C. 956 for UK and 843 for Italy D. 1594 for UK and 7339 for Italy
The young Turkish Republic was searching for a way to explain itself to the modern world in 1930s. The expansion of women’s rights during the early Republican era was seen neither as a dictate of human rights nor women’s rights. The founders of the republic were genuinely committed to the modernization on the Western model and the nature of women’s status in society was intimately linked to this process, which included secularization and nationalism (Arat, 1997).
It was only in the 1980s, when women in Turkey began demanding their rights, that the concept of human rights became relevant as a tool to pursue women’s interests.
Women’s movement in Turkey has gained speed because of various factors. As a result of the military intervention of 1980 a political vacuum where women could come out with their own voices was created. Access to feminist experiences in the West and personal links to feminists abroad were important for feminist politics in Turkey. Western literature on feminist experiences and theory helped influence women in Turkey. In the context of a globalizing world in which means of communication and transportation made borders more porous than before, it was inevitable that women in a westernizing Turkey would be influenced by the feminist revolution in the West.
The Republic that was founded in 1920 adapted the Swiss civil code in 1926 to replace the religious code and granted suffrage in 1934. The civil code gave women many rights that had been denied under religious code; these included divorce, equal share in inheritance, and custody over children.
The Educational Reform Act in 1924 gave women equal educational rights. The Dress Reform Act in 1928 prohibited women from covering their heads and entire bodies with long black veils. The new Republic marked the end of polygamy as well as the end of divorce by men only. The most notable was the reform in 1934 that granted women the right to elect and to be elected in local elections and in 1935 in national elections.
According to the data we have on the literacy rate of the whole population of Turkey of 6 years of age and over:In 1935,Total: 10 387 105 Female: 5 997 138 Male: 4 389 967In 2000,The total: 7 589 657 Female: 5 732 525 Male:1 857 132 It is clear that in 2000, the rate of illiterate women is almost five times more than the rate of the illiterate men.
WOMEN RESEARCHERSIn most countries for which data are available, women represent only between 25% and 35% of total researchers. The number in Turkey is a little bit above the avarage. While women represent over 40% of researchers in Portugal and the Slovak Republic, they represent only 11% in Japan and Korea. Women researchers are principally found in the higher education sector and their participation is particularly low in the business sector, which employs the largest number of researchers in most countries and also in Turkey.
Women in ParliamentWhen we analyze the number and percentage of women in the Turkish Assembly we see that even in 2000 the percentage of women parliamentars is only 4,4, which is less than the 4,6 % in 1935. Unfortunately, Turkish women had more chance to be selected and represented in the parliament 70 years ago.
WOMEN IN BUSINESS LIFEIn their guide for Western businesspeople, Morrison, Conaway, and Borden (1994) describe women’s status in the Turkish business context as follows: “Remember that Turkey is primarily a Muslim country, so the vast majority of your business contacts will be male. . . . Any business women you meet will probably be Greek or Armenian rather than Turkish” (p. 394). If people prepare to do business in Turkey by following such popular, but erroneous, “how to do business” books, they will surely experience “culture shock”. Turkish women actively participate in almost all domains of work life at all decision-making levels. The question is why there is such a common misconception about Turkish businesswomen. As the cited “advice” indicates, this is partly because Turkey is a country where the majority of the population is Islamic (cited in Aycan, 2004).
WHAT IS VIOLENCE?Research has shown that violence against women is a universal problem. According to the United Nations Declaration on Elimination of Violence Against Women, violence is defined as “any act of violence that results in or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMENPrime Ministry’s Family Research Institution determined that the rate of physical violence against women in family was 34% in Turkey. 44.9% of men thought that the husband had the right to beat his wife, and 35% of Turkish women agreed (Basbakanlik Aile Arastirma Kurumu, 1995). Women exposed to physical violence lost their selfimage and their ability to make decisions and had difficulty developing identity and thought (Yayin Kurulu, 1995).
Violence against women is a serious problem in Turkey. The social tolerance for violence in police stations, public prosecutor offices, courts and health care facilities is widespread. In particular, ‘virginity control’ and ‘honor murders’ are practices that are peculiar to Turkish society, which appraises social ethics and social honor by a woman’s body (Büken & Şahinoğlu, 2006).
WOMEN AND DECISION MAKINGErci (2003) in her study works with three hundred ten women who applied to the Maternal–Child Health and Family Planning Center in Erzurum. For the study, she collected the data through the inquiry form, which was prepared to determine women’s efficiency in decision making, their perception of their status within the family, and their demographic characteristics. According to the results of the study women’s decision-making rate was lower than that of men, except for selecting clothes. Couples’ joint decision-making rate was high on personal matters but low on official matters. The women’s educational level affected their decision making in the family. The majority of the women perceived themselves as wives sharing everything within the family. Women’s perception of their positions in the family was related to their status and decision making.
In Erci’s study, 42% of the women stated that men were more intelligent and superior to women; 70.7% of them thought that way because of tradition, and 29.3% thought this way because they believed that men were physically and economically powerful.Women’s ideas about men as more intelligent were associated with men’s high educational levels. Their beliefs were inherited from their ancestors.
Gülçür’s report details the findings of a field study undertaken as part of a larger project by Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR), which focused on theoretical, empirical and policy issues related to domestic violence in Turkey. According to the study, which was conductedin 1993-94 in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, there was a very low-level use of legal and institutional means in response to the violence to which women were subjected.
WOMEN AND ISLAMMost of Turkey’s population is Muslim, but the Turkish Government makes it very clear that the country is a secular state with complete freedom of religion. It is clearly stated in the Turkish Constitution that Islam is not the religion of the state but the citizens. However, noone can deny the effect of Islam on the Turkish society. Although Turkish laws and other social structures are not based on Islamic principles, Islam has a large influence on society, especially in the rural areas(Bahar et. al., 2005).