Crisis of Women’s Rights in Turkey during the AKP regime

Erdogan again and again repeats the importance of young demograpgy and underline the importance of motherhood. Erdogan: “Women status rise by being mother and heaven is only one step away from them”. The status of women is being transformed. In June 2011 Prime Minister Erdoğan announced that the Ministry for Women Statue will be changed to the Ministry of Women and Family. In reality it is not only a change of the name for a ministry but also a sign of reducing women only to a statue that is valuable in combination with family. This change of the government is a step backward in its struggle to combat gender inequality.

In terms of gender equality  and political participations Turkey still lacks behind the OECD norms. The World Bank and the State Planning Organization shared report published in 2009 outlines that the average women workforce in the OECD countries is about 62% . Countries with similar economic profiles as Turkey are about 33% whereas Turkish women workforce is below 22% since 2008. The report also highlights the fact that 3 out of 4 women do not work or search for a job. A hindrance may be the child care which needs to be paid when women work. Most of the women will not spend a big portion of their money for this care. Besides this the growing population, the patriarchal structure, education levels and the cutting of formal education, the movement from rural to urban areas and informal labor are other factor why women’s percentage as workforce cannot reach OECD standards. The author and journalist Meral Tamer reported on the International Women’s Day in 2013 that Turkish women were and are still underrepresented in politics. According to her findings:

Political Position Total Women
Ministers 26 1
Provincial governors 81 1
Mayors 2.950 26
Village Heads 34.275 65
Ambassadors 196 21
Ministry Undersecretaries 26 0


The positive image of women’s emancipations during the AKP governance is also shadowed by international reports. According to the Gender Gap Index 2013, Turkey still lacks to impose gender equality in the fields of economics, politics, health and education and therefore ranked 129 out of 134 countries. A similar negative evaluation of the same situation is documented by Gender Equity Index 2012 where Turkey failed to reach a good score (0,45/1,0) in terms of education, economic activity and women empowerment. In the Education at Glance 2012 Report of OECD, Turkey’s portrait looked not very bright. According to the findings of this report women aged between 15-29 years spend the shortest period time in education, at an average 4.3 years for women and 5 years for men. 52% of women between 15-29 years neither work nor attend school.

The paternalistic structure of the AKP government melts into the private spheres of women and public areas. Here a deep crisis can be detected. The set to proposals and reforms made by the conservatives against the emancipation of women pushed many of them to the streets in the Gezi movement. According to the numbers nearly 51%[5] of the demonstrators were women. It is also striking that the composition of the women in the movement was very diverse. The profiles of women in the movement varied from young to old, from less educated to graduates, from workers to academicians, doctors, journalists and many more. This variety is a clear hint that the women from all lawyers of the society demonstrated against the transformation of women’s role and their rights.  Gezi is also an indicator for the massive reaction against the idea that women should be regarded as producers of labor power and the image that women should be regarded as 2nd class citizens who have not the chance to take responsibility in everyday life concerning their own bodies, their professional life either with political engagement or as workers. This thesis is supported by the symbol of the Gezi movement who is the Lady in Red. Ceyda Sungur is an assistant at Istanbul Technical University at the Department of City Planning. She is the face of the movement because she showed no reaction besides standing still when she was attacked by the police with pepper gas. She has not only the key figure because of her courage but also due her symbolic meaning as women standing against a growing discriminative system against women.

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