October 16, 2013
In CHP’s social democratic vision of Turkey’s future, the EU membership process plays a crucial role. Gender equality is in this respect a key issue that transcends all other fields of integration, such as democracy, economic growth, employment, education, the information society, rural development and regional development.
In fact, gender equality is at the core of genuine interaction between Turkey’s EU process, its social and economic development, and its contribution to Europe’s global competitiveness.
All surveys underline that Turkish women are staunch supporters of EU membership, even more so than men. They are the major supporters of accession. However, statistics and realities speak for themselves; the problem is very transparent.
The following important facts have been released by women’s rights NGOs:
* According to the standards of the European Union, one women’s shelter should be opened per 7,500 people. Hence, there should be 7,500 shelters in Turkey, but in reality there are only 38. These shelters have a total capacity of 867 people.
* In the Gender Equality report of the World Economic Forum, Turkey ranks 122th out of a total of 135 countries for gender equality.
* The number of murders of women has increased by 1,400 over the past seven years. There is no action plan to stop this development; the legislature and the executive do not even have a related program.
* Today, in terms of female representation in politics, Turkey’s rank is also very low. Turkey’s rank in women representation in parliament (% 14.2) is 88th among 143 countries.
* In women representation rates in cabinet, Turkey ranks 90th among 96 countries having one minister in charge of family policies.
* Turkey’s female labor participation ratio is the lowest among EU and OECD members (56.5%). The government has only set a very modest target of increasing female labor force participation to 35% by 2030, as compared to EU strategy of 75%.
* The single most important barrier to female employment is the paucity of child care facilities. Given their low profitability, the capacity shortages in the facilities can only solved by state aid, incentives and leadership. However, the government had explicitly adopted a “three children per family” policy, which explains why this area of social development has received scant attention from the central budget.
So the question is:
What will the EU do? What would the EU do if such trend started in a member country today? What else does the EU need to know to stop discrimination, political pressure and violence against Turkish women? What do European values say about all these things?
The EU’s enlargement to Turkey currently seems to be a victim of the Cyprus issue, which produces disproportionately negative effects and weak political visions on both sides. Consequently, the EU’s credibility and transformational power on Turkey are being weakened. Unfortunately, as in the fields of democratic reforms and social development, gender equality issues stay as the part of the problem of Turkey through the EU process. In fact, they could become the part of the solution. The solution, once again, lies in re-engaging Turkey on the path towards membership.
Please also see the full text of my article on gender equality in Turkey: http://www.social-europe.eu/2012/11/gender-equality-and-the-eus-transformational-power-in-turkey/
and recent article on gender equality in Turkey below:
Violence against women persists
By Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye in Istanbul — 09/09/13
Recent reports suggest that violence against women continues at high levels, a phenomenon women’s rights defenders attribute to failure of courts to punish perpetrators and entrenched cultural norms.
Sexual assault crimes have increased by 30 percent in the past five years, according to data released last month by the Turkish Statistical Institute.
Half of the rape victims are younger than 18 years old, with teenage boys accounting for 10 percent of victims. Perpetrators are usually acquaintances of victims, including family members. Most female victims of violence report that their husband is the perpetrator, TUIK reported.
The number of reported sexual harassment cases have increased in recent years: 489 in 2006, 540 in 2007, 589 in 2008, and 624 in 2009.
Ayse Nuhoglu, head of the law department at Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University, told SES Türkiye that official figures might not reflect the true extent of the problem.
“[Victims] don’t want to be alienated from the social environment they live in. They want to protect their honour or their own lives because sometimes their relatives kill them or ask them to commit suicide when the sexual abuse is notified and becomes commonly known,” she said.
Nuhoglu added: “Sometimes they don’t complain because they cannot prove the assault happened and they are almost certain that the aggressor will go unpunished or the trial will last for years, and she would be obliged to talk about the assault again and again, along with the constant trauma she would get.”
Itir Erhart, an expert on women’s rights at Istanbul Bilgi University, told SES Türkiye that weak political will allows violence against women to go unchecked.
“Good legislation is very important. That is to say, those who violate women, be it politicians, film stars, or non-public figures, should never be able to get away with it,” Erhart told SES Türkiye. “Violence against women in Turkey seems to be supported by dynamics within the culture: the traditional roles, patriarchal structure, gender inequality.”
Jin News Agency, a news organisation focused on women’s rights, compiled data from TUIK, the Justice Ministry, Interior Ministry, police authorities and gendarmerie, and reported that 409 state officials charged with sexual assault in the past 15 years, including soldiers, village guards, prison guards and policemen, went unpunished.
Turkey adopted a new law on violence against women in March 2012 to provide women with more protection and to penalise offenders more severely. Police officers were also given authority to issue a protection order rapidly when the victim needs protection without the need to first get approval from a family court.
The law also widened use of technology for anti-violence purposes, including electronic bracelets to track offenders and alarm mechanisms for women to be used to alert the authorities when in danger. It also lets women change their official identity if their lives are in danger.
Personnel from the Directorate General for Religious Affairs and armed forces have been given specific training and workshops in preventing violence against women and ensuring gender equality.
For Erhart, the lack of training in the past contributed to the problem.
“Proper training is very crucial especially for lower ranking officers who deal with women and girls directly and are responsible for holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions,” she said.
Experts also say there are not enough shelters for victims. There are only 63 across the country, although every municipality with more than 50,000 residents is legally required to have one.
“Due to Turkey’s commitments within the international conventions we signed, it is a must for those shelters to provide women with housing opportunities as well as vocational training, employment, kindergarten support for their children. The extent to which women feel themselves as secure, they would resist against the violence,” Bahar Unluer Ozturk, an Istanbul-based lawyer advocating women’s rights, told SES Türkiye.
Serap Gure Senalp of the Istanbul-based Solidarity Foundation for Women (KADAV) said the lack of legal support for women makes violence more common.
“If you do not have enough shelters, no state protection, no financial support, if the trials take a very long time, if women are obliged to apply to many institutions and to pass through many examinations to prove the abuse, and if generally the authorities encourage women to go back her husband despite all the violence he committed, all these factors increase the already-present trauma and discourage them from getting out of this vicious circle of violence,” Senalp said.