Although the women of Turkey had obtained various rights long before many European countries had, a reverse process began in the aftermath thereof.
Duygu Asena,a famous Turkish female writer who made significant contributions regarding the development of women’s movement in Turkey, had summarized the position of women in Turkey quite well with the name of her book, saying what she had to say by taking a short cut. It is almost impossible to speak of the presence of women in almost every area of social life, from politics to the business world. Political parties from right to left, the trade unions representing the labor world and organizations of businessmen is showing a discrimination against women. “The solidarity of those with moustaches” (which is an epithet coined by the feminist movement and which I like very much) imposes the black and white world of male-dominated life upon us on one side while continuing to tightly cling to the status of power using a tough defense. The efforts of women, while staying strong within the family structure, seem to remain weak and are far from bringing about a strong influence. Consequently they fall short of changing or at least shaking the existing order.
Despite the fact that our women had their right to vote and be voted long before European countries, they faced a reverse process from thereof. In the initial periods of the TurkishRepublic, specifically the 1935 elections, 18 women were elected to Parliament’s 395 seats, which corresponded to a rate of 4.6 percent. This rate was never reached again up until the general elections in 2007. After just 72 years we now have 50 female deputies in Parliament’s 550 seats, corresponding to a rate of 9.1 percent, that number was 73 (13.3 percent) in elections held in 2007. These figures are significant in that they show that we’ve covered a distance at the pace of a turtle in terms of the representation of women in Parliament over 72 years. The situation is not very different as far as local governments are concerned. A total of 26 “female” majors were elected in the last municipal elections. Women are represented at the rate of 0.8 percent in the total number of mayoralties, which is 2,950.
There may be those who would think that this outlook in the political field is depressing and there may still be those who would say that the situation could not be worse. However, there are worse cases as exemplified in labor and employer organizations. There are no women in the top-level management of the three leading labor organizations of Turkey: DİSK, HAK-İŞ and TÜRK-İŞ. On the other hand, there are only two women out of 25 members in TİSK’s management board, which is representative of the capital class. The situation is a little bit better as far as the confederations through which the trade unions of the public officers are organized. However, there are no women in the management of these unions; namely KAMU-SEN and MEMUR-SEN. Women have taken office in the top-level management of KESK, BASK and HAK-SEN with 1 out of 6, 2 out of 9 and 2 out of 8 members respectively being members, corresponding to 16.6 percent, 22.2 percent and 12.5 percent. There are no single female members on the board of directors of TESK (Confederation of craftsman and small traders of Turkey), TZOB (Chambers of agriculture of Turkey) or TOBB (Union of chambers and stock markets of Turkey).
The number of working women in our country is 6.7 million, according to the data of TUİK (Turkish Statistical Institute). The rate of unemployment among women is 13 percent, while the rate of employment is 24 percent. The rate of women working unrecorded is 24 percent. This means that more than half of workingwomen have no social security.
Among employed women, 41.7 percent are employed in the agricultural sector, while 14.6 percent and 43.7 percent work in the industrial and service sectors respectively. Furthermore, 12.8 percent of each 100 women are employers, 51.1 percent of them work on a monthly or daily wage basis. The rate of women working as a family worker without pay is 34.8 percent (4).
According to data from TOBB, there are only 80,000 women among the total number of entrepreneurs, which amounts to approximately 1.3 million.
Turkey is condemned to a desperate panorama as far as education is concerned, irrespective of women or men. But the situation of women who are deprived of a general education is worse than what is shown in the following figures: 80.4 percent of 4,672,257 literate people are women, while 51.2 percent of 13,517,224 people who are literate and graduates of any school are women, 46.6 percent of 7,432,613 graduates of primary school are women, 36.1 percent of 2,795,917 graduates of secondary school and its equivalents are women, 42.1 percent of 10,379,229 graduates of high school and its equivalent are women, 56.8 percent of 4,220,813 graduates of higher education institutes and faculties are women, 40.4 percent of 279,268 graduates of post-graduate programs are women, 35.8 percent of 95,502 of those who have completed doctorate programs are women. Two important points that we must pay attention to in the percentages above are: While our women exhibit quite a good percentage as far as higher education –including post-graduate and doctorate studies — is concerned, they are not represented at the same percentage in any aspect of social life after graduation. Another important point is the illiteracy rates and the rates of attendance to primary and secondary schools. However, every woman who enters the main educational channel proceeds to show quite a successful graphic up until the end of her educational life.
Male violence and honor killings, which are specific to under-developed societies, continue to depress us all. This is an order always based on inequality in all areas of society, be it in the laws, social life, family life, school or the work place.
Above we have already mentioned that the women of Turkey had obtained various rights long before many European countries had, but a reverse process seem to be taking place in the aftermath thereof. Is it ever possible to ensure the progress of that mass as a whole by letting one piece of that mass proceed forward while neglecting the other? This country has evolved to a state in which the reactionary mentality that regards women as second-class beings has been predominant from the period of Atatürk, who once said: “Is it ever possible that half of an object rises to the sky while the other half remains chained to the earth?”
1-Duygu Asena –Journalist-Author (1946-2006)
2-Tansu Çiller; 25.06.1993-05.10.1995, 05.10.1995-30.10.1995, 30.10.1995-06.03.1996
3- Nihat Erim Government 26.03.1971-11.12.1971)
4-KSGM Report on the status of women
5- Republic of Turkey, Office of the Prime Minister, General Directorate of the Status of Women, Situation of women in Turkey, Report dated February 2011.