Women around the world…

Discrimination against women starts at birth for a girl, and continues all her life in many countries around the world.  And throughout her life, compared to a man, a woman encounters many problems that are caused by being poorer, having a low social status, lack of education and the attitude of society.

Let’s give some examples.  Two thirds of the 876 million adults who are illiterate in the world are women.  Women earn less than men in many countries and the wages of women laborers are 30 to 40 percent lower compared to men who do the same job.  In developing countries, 63 percent of women around childbearing age are anemic because of malnourishment.  Every year more than 40 million women have abortion and they are forced to have half of these procedures done under unhealthy conditions.  Every year more than half a million women lose their life during pregnancy or birth.

About one of every four women in the world is a victim of violence.  Violence against women is a breach of human rights.  These injuries, sexual assaults, and ill treatment incidents are increasing compared to previous years.  1975 and 1985 were accepted as the Year of Women.  In July 1985, during World Women’s Conference, it was emphasized that violence exists in different dimensions in every country and this must be prevented.  It was discussed that in each society there was a need for a national court which should follow the violence matters.  And again in 1985, the United Nations emphasized the need for taking precautions against all kinds of violence, by accepting the “Agreement to Prevent All kinds of Discrimination against Women”.

Fortunately, the majority of women are becoming more conscious about improving their positions in the society in the 21st century, and they are becoming more organized.  They want to have the same rights and opportunities as men, both in education and other services.

Women in Turkey…

In light of these assessments, women in Turkey share the same despair that most of the other women experience in the world.  Women who live in Turkey of the 2000s have to eliminate all kinds of violence in the family, as well as to overcome backwardness in education, employment, health and the social fields.  According to the latest statistics, only 81 percent of our women are literate, 19 percent is still illiterate.  In other words, one in every five women today never received any type of education.  When we look at participation in workforce, it is seen that the percentage of women who are graduates of higher education is 70 percent, while the participation of those who didn`t graduate from high school is 22 percent.  Number of working women is 6.7 million.  But every 58 women out of 100, who are assumed to be employed, work without being registered at any security institution. Percentage of off-the-record (unregistered) workers is 58, while the percentage of unemployed women is 13.

Most of our women’s problems are not just because of lack of sufficiency in the field of education and employment.  We also have wounds like “honor killings” in the social field.  It is hard to believe, but according to various researches, 20 percent of women live in common-law marriages.  This means they are the second wife or “kuma” in Turkish.  Most of the time this is the only solution for uneducated and unemployed women.

Another problem in the social field is the issue of “child brides”, young girls who are forced to get married before they are even 15 years old.  According to the Population Research Institute at Hacettepe University, there are more than 5 million child brides in Turkey.  This percentage climbs up to 40 -42 in the East and Southeast.  In those regions, 32 out of 100 marriages are child-bride cases.  The risk of death during pregnancy and birth is five times more for 10 -14 year old girls, compared to 20 -24 year olds who face the same risk…. The subject of scores of children that are born of uneducated mothers is a serious problem that needs to be addressed urgently in our country.

No doubt, we have problems in the health field, but we can say that there have been some positive improvements too, in our country over the years.  We don`t have major diseases like tuberculosis, gonorrhea, AİDS, trachoma, and nutritional deficiency that rage underdeveloped countries; sexually transmitted diseases and AİDS are reduced and under control.  Death rate for children under five years is significantly decreasing.  That, especially, is a very pleasing development.

All of these are just one side of the medallion in the health field. There is a chaos which is hard to believe on the other side of the medallion, which was created by the current government`s populist politics.  A significant number of teaching staff in universities have resigned as a result of their being humiliated, and also as a reaction to settled deontology and ethical rules in medicine being turned upside down.  It looks like there is a big potential risk of serious problems arising in the health field in the future, since medical students and assistants now will be educated by incompetent individuals.

As physical violence, sexual assault and ill-treatment cases against women are increasing around the world in recent years, unfortunately, women in Turkey are also experiencing the same negative treatments.  According to some findings of a research done by the Prime Ministries Family Research Institution, in 39 percent of families there is physical violence, and there is verbal violence in 53 percent of the families.  These findings were projected into our domestic law, and as a result, the ¨Family Protection Law¨ was accepted on January 14, 1998, and additions and changes to this law were made in 2007.  While there were 3207 applications in 2001, three years after the law was put to force, this number has been increasing every year at a rate of almost 100 percent.

Consequently, the government must do its part, and provide the necessary support and security to protect, shelter, provide economic empowerment, and jobs to women who are victims of violence.  The most difficult part of applying this law is providing shelter to the victims of violence.

Women in Turkey are experiencing the problems that are mentioned briefly above.  Furthermore, they are struggling not to compromise secularism, and keep on living as citizens of a secular democracy.

The concept of secularism bears a vital priority in our country.  Whatever was dreamed and tried to be realized in 1920` s and 1930`s young Turkey are assumed non-existent and are distorted, especially in the last 10 years.  Moreover, these acts are carried out under the appearance of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, in the name of democracy, through utilization.  Whereas, this cycle should have been the cycle of reconstruction by ending religious bigotry and adapting contemporary values. Our women should have demanded no compromise from secularism in any shape or form; they should have opposed fundamentalism and Sharia movements.  But, alongside all these pessimistic pictures, we must also mention some promising fundamental changes about Turkish women.

1) As a result of studies that have been going on for 50 years, the new Turkish Civil Code was accepted.

Most important changes were made in the field of Family Law.

Spouses were granted equal rights in the family.

The concept of equality was also brought into the responsibilities.

In the event of divorce or death of one of the spouses, equal sharing of goods acquired during marriage was accepted.

Marriage age for women and men equally became subjected to the condition of completion of age 17.

It was emphasized that women didn`t need the permission of their husbands in choosing their profession, job or for continuing to work.

Women were granted the right to use their maiden name along with their married name.

Important changes were also made to the Law of Succession in favor of women.

2) The number of women Representatives in the Parliament were 50 as a result of 2007 popular elections .  In the latest elections in 2011, 79 women Representatives entered the Parliament.  This means 14 percent of the 550 representatives are women.  It is our common wish to see more women in higher percentages in the Parliament and to take part in decision making mechanisms.

3) The ideology of the republic gave big importance to benefit women in all levels of education. Therefore today, the percentage of women instructors is 39 percent. The percentage of women among all professors is 29 percent.  Currently 5 percent of university presidents are women.  Percentage of women deans are 15 percent.  As far as receiving higher education, the occupations women reached are pleasing.  For example, 37 percent of architects, 29 percent of doctors, 33 percent of lawyers are women.  That means, approximately one third of university instructors and high- level professionals are women.

Today, in our country, as Turkish women and youth, we are very disturbed by the efforts of establishing moderate Islam.  Our greatest assurance against this predominantly religious way of life and ideology is our youth and well-read intellectuals who are devoted to Atatürk`s principles.