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									Being a Woman in
     Turkey:

   Education,
  Religion and
   Social Life

        by
    Nesrin Oruç
  QUIZ:
   ON
 WOMEN
RIGHTS IN
   THE
 WORLD
Where do you think the
following has happened?
“Women-only train
cars have been introduced
on X’s railways as a way of
countering the grapping
women on overcrowded
trains.

A. Turkey
B. Great Britain
C. Japan
D. USA
Which of the country below has the
internationally highest proportion of women
professors?

A. Turkey
B. Great Britain
C. Germany
D. USA
In France women got the
right to elect and to be
elected in 1944, the date
is 1946 for Italian
women. In which year do
you think Turkish women
gained the right to elect
and be elected?

A. 1934
B. 1950
C. 1963
D. 1980
Turkey was brought to the European
Human Rights Court 1117 times in
2001. This is a very high number.
How many appeals from
the UK and Italy were
made to the Human
Rights Court in the
year 2001?
A. 30 for UK and 20 for Italy
B. 300 for UK and 400 for Italy
C. 956 for UK and 843 for Italy
D. 1594 for UK and 7339 for Italy
Status of
Women in
 Turkey
The young Turkish Republic was
searching for a way to explain itself to
the modern world in 1930s. The
expansion of women‟s rights during the
early Republican era was seen neither
as a dictate of human rights nor
women‟s rights. The founders
of the republic were genuinely
committed to the modernization
on the Western model and the
nature of women‟s status in
society was intimately
linked to this process,
which included secularization
and nationalism (Arat, 1997).
 It was only in the 1980s, when women in Turkey
began demanding their rights, that the concept of
human rights became relevant as a tool to pursue
                 women‟s interests.
Women‟s movement in Turkey has gained speed
because of various factors. As a result of the
military intervention of 1980 a political vacuum
where women could come out with their own
voices was created. Access to feminist
experiences in the West and personal links to
feminists abroad were important for feminist
politics in Turkey. Western literature on feminist
experiences and theory helped influence women in
Turkey. In the context of a globalizing world in
which means of communication and transportation
made borders more porous than before, it was
inevitable that women in a westernizing Turkey
would be influenced by the feminist revolution in
the West.
The Republic that was
founded in 1920 adapted
the Swiss civil code in 1926
to replace the religious
code and granted suffrage
in 1934. The civil code gave
women many rights that
had been denied under
religious code; these
included divorce, equal
share in inheritance, and
custody over children.
The Educational Reform Act in 1924 gave
women equal educational rights.

The Dress Reform Act in 1928 prohibited women
from covering their heads and entire bodies with
long black veils.

The new Republic marked the end of polygamy as
well as the end of divorce by men only.

The most notable was the reform in 1934 that
granted women the right to elect and to be
elected in local elections and in 1935 in national
elections.
According to the data we have on the literacy rate of the
whole population of Turkey of 6 years of age and over:

In 1935,

Total: 10 387 105 Female: 5 997 138 Male: 4 389 967

In 2000,

The total: 7 589 657 Female: 5 732 525 Male:1 857 132

It is clear that in 2000, the rate of illiterate women is almost
five times more than the rate of the illiterate men.
WOMEN RESEARCHERS
In most countries for which data are available,
women represent only between 25% and 35% of
total researchers. The number in Turkey is a little
bit above the avarage. While women represent
over 40% of researchers in Portugal and the
Slovak Republic, they represent only 11% in Japan
and Korea. Women researchers are principally
found in the higher education sector and their
participation is particularly low in the business
sector, which employs the largest number of
researchers in most countries and also in Turkey.
Women in Parliament

When we analyze the number and percentage of
women in the Turkish Assembly we see that even
in 2000 the percentage of women parliamentars is
only 4,4, which is less than the 4,6 % in 1935.

Unfortunately, Turkish women had more chance to
be selected and represented in the parliament 70
years ago.
WOMEN IN BUSINESS LIFE
In their guide for Western businesspeople, Morrison,
Conaway, and Borden (1994) describe women‟s status in
the Turkish business context as follows: “Remember that
Turkey is primarily a Muslim country, so the vast majority of
your business contacts will be male. . . . Any business
women you meet will probably be Greek or Armenian
rather than Turkish” (p. 394). If people prepare to do
business in Turkey by following such popular, but
erroneous, “how to do business” books, they will surely
experience “culture shock”. Turkish women actively
participate in almost all domains of work life at all decision-
making levels. The question is why there is such a common
misconception about Turkish businesswomen. As the cited
“advice” indicates, this is partly because Turkey is a
country where the majority of the population is Islamic

(cited in Aycan, 2004).
WHAT IS VIOLENCE?
Research has shown that violence against
women is a universal problem. According to
the United Nations Declaration on
Elimination of Violence Against Women,
violence is defined as “any act of violence
that results in or is likely to result in,
physical, sexual or psychological harm or
suffering to women, including threats of such
acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of
liberty, whether occurring in public or private
life”.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Prime Ministry’s Family Research Institution determined
that the rate of physical violence against women in family
was 34% in Turkey.

44.9% of men thought that the husband had the right to
beat his wife, and 35% of Turkish women agreed
(Basbakanlik Aile Arastirma Kurumu, 1995).

Women exposed to physical violence lost their selfimage
and their ability to make decisions and had difficulty
developing identity and thought (Yayin Kurulu, 1995).
Violence against women is a serious
problem in Turkey. The social tolerance for
violence in police stations, public prosecutor
offices, courts and health care facilities is
widespread.

In particular, „virginity control‟ and „honor
murders‟ are practices that are peculiar to
Turkish society, which appraises social
ethics and social honor by a woman‟s body
(Büken & Şahinoğlu, 2006).
WOMEN AND DECISION MAKING
Erci (2003) in her study works with three hundred ten women
who applied to the Maternal–Child Health and Family Planning
Center in Erzurum. For the study, she collected the data
through the inquiry form, which was prepared to determine
women‟s efficiency in decision making, their perception of their
status within the family, and their demographic characteristics.

According to the results of the study women‟s decision-making
rate was lower than that of men, except for selecting clothes.

Couples‟ joint decision-making rate was high on personal
matters but low on official matters.

The women‟s educational level affected their decision making
in the family. The majority of the women perceived themselves
as wives sharing everything within the family. Women‟s
perception of their positions in the family was related to their
In Erci’s study, 42% of the women
stated that men were more
intelligent and superior to women;

70.7% of them thought
that way because of tradition, and
29.3% thought this way because
 they believed that men were
physically and economically
powerful.
Women’s ideas about men as
more intelligent were
associated with men’s high
educational levels.
Their beliefs were
inherited from their ancestors.
Gülçür’s report details the findings
of a field study undertaken as part
of a larger project by Women for
Women’s Human Rights (WWHR),
which focused on theoretical,
empirical and policy issues related
to domestic violence in Turkey.
According to the study, which was
conducted in 1993-94 in Ankara,
the capital of Turkey, there was a
very low-level use of legal and
institutional means in
response to the violence
to which women were
subjected.
WOMEN AND ISLAM

Most of Turkey‟s population is Muslim, but the
Turkish Government makes it very clear that the
country is a secular state with complete freedom of
religion. It is clearly stated in the Turkish
Constitution that Islam is not the religion of the
state but the citizens. However, noone can deny
the effect of Islam on the Turkish society. Although
Turkish laws and other social structures are not
based on Islamic principles, Islam has a large
influence on society, especially in the rural areas
(Bahar et. al., 2005).
QUESTIONS
PLEASE!!!
 By

Nesrin
 Oruç

								
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