Introduction (Topic & Thesis)In my presentation today, I am going to look at the unequal status of women in law and how changing that status both requires the involvement of women in the democratic process and increases that involvement. In other words, women need to demand rights for themselves. And when they do get those rights the position of women will get better.In this presentation I will compare the experience of Turkey with other European countries to show how this has happened in Europe and is happening in Turkey
OutlineIn this presentation I will first discuss how social and legal reality for women has changed in the last 100 yearsI will then show the how the current social situation for women in Turkey is a reflection of Institutional discrimination Then I will discuss how recent positive changes in the legal status of women were the result of women’s participation in the democraticFinally, I will argue that Institutional change will further improve democratic participation for women in particular and society in general. (Compare the social context of present day Turkey with Spain a generation ago).Therefore women’s participation in the democratic process is both cause and effect
BackgroundThe legal status of women tends to reflect social realityAt the beginning of the 20th century women did not have equal opportunity in society and in democratic countries. They did not have equal legal rights. Unlike men, they did not have the right to vote. They had no voice no political influence and limited social influence.This means societies were patriarchal in that they were dominated by men both in fact and by designWomen had neither de facto nor de jure political power
Socio-economic change and the Situation todayWomen’s social status has changed dramatically over the last 100 years and so have their legal rights. This table shows these changes in Turkey over the last half centuryPopulation growth and economic changes (urbanisation and industrialisation) put pressure on society requiring the economic involvement of women.This economic necessity improved their educational levels. However, unlike the rest of Europe, the status of women did not improve Why?These social changes lead to women organising to demand and get greater equality.
Legal Status of WomenHowever these social changes did not lead to improved legal rights for women as had happened in the rest of EuropeThe slide (show slide) shows that at the end of the 20th century Turkey was alone in Europe in terms of the patriarchal structureWithout legal rights equality and therefore true democracy is impossibleThe unequal status of women in law meant there was unequal status in all aspects of societyThings began to change in the 21st century due to EU membership negotiations
Mesuring EqualityDespite these social and economic changes, Turkey still behind Europe in women’s participation and there is still a large gender disparity. That is men still have more rights and opportunities than womenThe WEF has ranked societies around the world according to gender representation and it does this by measuring the following (show slide)The number of women who work outside the homeThe number who finish high school get a degree etcGender related health. Pregnancy mortality; family size; access to health education etcHow far behind is Turkey in terms of gender equality in these areas?
Is this ranking a fair reflection of reality? As you can see in economic participation, education attainment and political empowerment Turkey is far behind.Turkey has gone through the same socio-economic changes as the rest of Europe so why should be it be behind far poorer economically backward and more socially traditional societies?I would argue that it is because the legal status of women has not changed since the early years of the republic that women’s economic and political status has changed so little.
Legal Change or Institutional Change?Reform of the Penal Code was made a condition for the start of EU membership negotiations.UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against WomenCEDAW )report on Turkey had concluded that 29 articles in the Penal Code did notconform to the requirements of the Convention.83 Senior academics had exercised effective control over the legislative drafting process, irrespective of who was in power. Chief among them was SulhiDonmezer, ahighly respected figure in the legal establishment known as the ‘professor of professors’. He had been involved in most criminal law reform initiatives since the 1950s, including thepreparation of new criminal procedures after the 1980 coup. It was Donmezer who had beenput in charge again in the late 1990s with preparing a new draft Penal CodeRemarkably, the first draft for the new Penal Code prepared by Donmezer had left all of these provisions intact, except for cosmetic changesThe association Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) responded by forming aworking group in early 2002 representing academics, NGOs and bar associations to preparerecommendations for the new Penal Code For the WWHR and the women’s working group this was the moment to launch a broadbasedpublic campaign by creating a broader coalition of over 30 NGOs: the Platform for theTurkish Penal Code. WWHR circulated a booklet with concrete recommendations to parliamentarians, and called a meeting with the head of the parliamentary Justice Committee, Koksal Toptan (AKP)
Institutional ChangeOver the summer of 2003, it became clear that, for the first time, a real public debate ongender equality was underway. The drafting of the new Penal Code was not just a revolution in the legal status of women. It was also a sign of profoundchanges in Turkish democracy. The entire process was conducted in a highly transparentfashion, with intense debate and inputs from across society.Remarkably, this acutely sensitive set of reforms was achieved through cross-party consensusbetween AKP and CHP. This was a turning point in the history of Turkey, as never before had parliamentconducted public consultation in the drafting of laws. It was also the first time parliament produced a draft itself. The new penal code was the most important achievement of parliament.
Democracy in ActionSome 35 articles concerning women and their rights to sexual autonomy were changed. Allreferences to vague patriarchal constructs such as chastity, morality, shame, public customs ordecency had been eliminated. The new Penal Code treats sexual crimes as violations ofindividual women’s rights and not as crimes against society, the family or public morality. Itcriminalises rape in marriage, eliminates sentence reductions for honour killings, ends legaldiscrimination against non-virgin and unmarried women, criminalises sexual harassment inthe workplace. Provisions on the sexual abuse of children have been amended to remove thepossibility of under-age consent.109These changes were made possible because of the work of women’s NGOs working with parliament
ConsequencesWhat does this recent legal change mean? Will it help women in Turkey to close the huge gender gap in education, economic particiption and particularly democratic representation? Well consider Spain that is now 11th place in the WEF survey. In Spain, until 1975 a woman needed herhusband’s permission (permiso marital) to work, buy property or even travel any distance. !975 saw the end of dictatorship and the beginning of democratic participation in Spain.Of all European countries, Spain has made some of the most dramatic progress in living memory in closing its gender gap. Under Franco’s rule, which lasted until 1975, the Catholic hurch was able to impose a moral vision on Spanish society that severely limited the place of womenDivorce and contraception were both outlawed. A woman was legally obliged to obey her husband. Violence within the family was endemic.For centuries, Spanish women were the prisoners of a code of moral values at the core of which was a peculiar conception of honour that a man could lose, not just by his own actions but also by those of others, and in particular those of his female relatives.
One generation later, Spain appears to occupy a different cultural universe. In the past two decades Spanish women have made up the lost ground with extraordinary speed, flooding to higher education and the labour market. More importantly, political representation has increased dramatically
SummarySo we have seen that changes in the status of women gave them educational and economic opportunities. With this increase in their de facto power they were able to organise and bring about institutional change and establish de jure powerChanges in the rights of women not only benefited future generations of women but has enriched democracy and therefore all of society. Democratic Equality is both cause and effect.ConclusionTurkey had fallen far behind because of outdated laws that oppressed women. It is my hope that the recent changes in the law will have dramatic consequences for Turkish women and for democracy in Turkey. Thank you for listening
Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Unit Europe and Central Asia Region,Bridging the Gender Gap in Turkey: A Milestone Towards Faster Socio-economic Development and Poverty Reduction, September 16, 2003