Oct 21, 2009

Polygamy is rife in Turkey

By Abdulla Hawez

?The Hawler Tribune: How do you see women’s situation in Turkey
Kuraner: The main issues with regard to women in Turkey are: Firstly, lack of a comprehensive support system for violence against women, such as the shortage of women’s shelters, existing laws not being implemented accurately and lack of gender training for security forces, the judiciary and health personnel. Secondly, the shortage of women in decision making mechanisms such as all levels of politics (national and local). And finally, the shortage of women in the labour force and the high levels of women who work in unregistered jobs with no social security such as agricultural work and textiles.
HT: In your view what’s the reason for increasing violence against women in Turkey-statistics said violence against women was %40 in 2008 in Turkey-?
Kuraner: The real levels of violence against women have not increased, it has simply become
more visible as a result of awareness raising activities and the changes in the penal code. Actual numbers have not risen, only official numbers have risen because more cases are reported and filed. The resulting publicity of legal changes has led to more women applying to the security forces and the judicial system instead of suffering silently.
HT: What about women’s participation in politics, Why have we not had a female yester of yet?
Kuraner: Women’s political participation in Turkey is one of the lowest rates of OECD countries. Politics is very much in the control of the patriarchal system in Turkey which does not make women’s political participation very easy. There is a women’s NGO called KA-DER which works excusively to increase women’s participation in politics. They work to raise awareness of the issue and carry out trainings for women who are interested in entering the political arena. But we have in the past, in the 1980s, had a woman prime minister (Tansu Çiller) for a while.HT: Is there any obstacle to female journalists in Turkey?No there are no obstacles in the way of women journalists, but the press and media are also run by a very patriarchal system which certainly makes it very hard for women to become journalists. The press prefers to function as a private men’s club. However, we do have many women journalists and male journalists who support women’s plight for equality.
HT: While headscarves are still banned to be woren in Turkey’s public and official places, the first-lady is wearing headscarf. How do you explain these contradictory situations?
Kuraner: Turkey is a secular Muslim majority country, and the headscarf is banned in public and official institutions for service providers, however there is no restriction on dresscodes otherwise. Over recent years, the headscarf has become a very politicized and polarized issue, which in our view is not approached with a women’s human rights perspective, but as part of patriarchal political power struggles.
HT: Is there any descrimnition between Kurdish women and Turkish women?
Main constrictions women in the south east (Kurdish) region in Turkey have: Language and education problem – Many women in the region have not completed primary school education therefore are either illetiret or cannot speak Turkish. This makes it hard for them to access services and exercise their rights. Families tend to be large with many children and therefore when it comes to education, priority is given to male children with the female ones being pushed to marry as early as possible. The practice of polygamy is also rife in the region, despite that is illegal under Turkish law. Women are thus suppressed by patriachal traditions and practices.Armed Conflict – Due to the conflict situation of the region which has been going on for 20 years, there has been very little investment and job creation projects which has led to high levels of poverty. Most families exist on state aid or regional agricultural work, and the region is underdeveloped which affects all the population.
HT: Does your organization have any new data to explain women’s situation in Turkey?
Kuraner: I am afraid we have no recent data with regard to women’s situation in Turkey. Lack of data has always been a problem in Turkey. The 2 most striking data we do have is that only 9% of parliament is made up of women and only 22% of women participate in the workforce.
HT: Define your organization?
Kuraner: Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways, an independent women’s NGO, was founded in 1993 with the aim of promoting women’s human rights in Turkey and on the international level. Since its foundation, WWHR has become a widely renowned non-governmental organization around the globe. Through a decade of activism, advocacy and lobbying, WWHR – New Ways has contributed significantly to various legal reforms in Turkey, networking in Muslim societies and promotion of women’s human rights at the United Nations (UN) level. Since 2005, WWHR - New Ways has consultative status with the Economic & Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN.On the international level, WWHR – New Ways has successfully worked to initiate a network of academicians and NGOs advocating for women’s human rights in Muslim societies. It has initiated and is coordinating “The Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR)” , the first active solidarity network in Muslim Societies for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights as human rights. Our publications include the first comprehensive reader on human rights and sexuality, Women and Sexuality in Muslim Societies published in English, Turkish and Arabic. Our co-founder Pinar Ilkkaracan, and the two organizations she co-founded (WWHR and the CSBR) were announced as the recipient of 2007 Women's Rights Award issued by the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation.Our Human Rights Education Program for Women, which has celebrated its 11th anniversary in 2006, is one of the most widespread and comprehensive non-formal human rights education programs in the world. It was elected as one of the “best tactics in human rights worldwide” in an international program coordinated by The Centre for Victims of Torture. WWHR – New Ways was elected as one of the NGOs worldwide to deliver a statement at the U.N. March 8th Global World Conference in 1999, in recognition of its advocacy and lobbying efforts towards the adoption of a protection order law against domestic violence in Turkey. WWHR was also awarded the 1999 Leading Solutions Award by the Association for Women in Development (AWID), in recognition
of its contributions to advancing gender equality and social justice.
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