What can one say about a leader of state who meets with representatives of women’s organizations and tells them blithely, “I don’t believe in equality between men and women.”
In a recent blog for the Huffington Post, Sophia Jones argues that conditions are worsening for women in Turkey.
Last year, Turkey was rated 120 out of 136 countries in terms of gender gaps in education, health, politics and economics by the World Economic Forum. Its rates of violence against women, some of the worst in all of Europe, doubled from 2008 to 2012, according to the parliamentary Human Rights Commission. The country is also wracked by startling rates of child brides — nearly 7,000 girls were married between the ages of 13 and 17 over the past decade, according to a survey by a women’s rights group. And as of 2012, only about a third of women in Turkey had jobs, less than half the average in the European Union.
Women hold few positions of political leadership in Turkey.
In the recent municipal elections, there were some landmarks for women. Head-scarf wearing women were elected in at least two municipalities. Berivan Elif Kilic, who had married as a child and suffered from domestic abuse, is now mayor of her town (and speaks out regularly against domestic abuse). There are others as well.
Nonetheless, the overall election results highlight how poor conditions are. With the exception of the BDP, major political parties once again put forward few female candidates this election. Slightly more than 1% of the AKP’s candidates were women, but the opposition CHP, which often portrays itself as a defender of women’s rights, did almost as poorly, with women candidates representing less than five percent of its candidates.
With this lack of representation, it is no surprise that women’s rights are under siege.
Prime Minister Erdogan has threatened to ban abortions and waxed lyrical on the “duty” of women to bear children.
For its part, Amnesty has voiced its concern on these threats and called on the Turkish government “to ensure that women’s human rights are fully protected and that no further measures are put in place restricting women’s access to safe and legal abortion services.”
Last month, Amnesty-USA’s Bill Jones reminded us of the utter failure of Turkish authorities to address the lack of shelters for victims of domestic violence:
In 2005, there were only 16 shelters in Turkey for survivors of domestic violence. To deal with this, Turkey passed a law mandating that municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants open at least one shelter for survivors of domestic violence. According to this 2005 law, over 3,000 shelters should have been opened around the country.
Fourteen years later, there are now only 90 government shelters in all of Turkey.
With so many dramatic attacks on human rights in Turkey, it is often hard to remember on-going problems. Yet, Sophia Jones’ article reminds us that the position of women in Turkey continues to erode, another example of a more general deterioration of the human rights situation in Turkey.
St. Lawrence University