Turkish women cope with male-dominated society
Once in a nation that provided women with far-reaching rights and status, to an extent unprecedented in any Muslim country, women in Turkey today face a number of problems.
By Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye in Istanbul -- 15/03/12
Women in Turkey still cope with problems that stem from the traditional patriarchal values and male-dominated social relations in much of daily life. But they often question existing gender discrimination and domestic violence, and consequently demand improvement of existing laws in line with the standards of contemporary Western societies.
An activist with the women's rights group Femen protested domestic violence in Istanbul on March 8th. [Reuters]
In the contemporary debate over Turkish women's issues, the most discussed topic is the rising trend of violence throughout the country, in all forms, regardless of socio-economic and educational levels.
As a result of the pervasive patriarchal structure, nearly half of all women say they have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their husbands or partners.
Ayse Kaya from southeastern Anatolia, is a heartbroken 26-year-old, a victim of domestic violence for more than a decade at the hands of her husband whom she was forced to marry.
"I've witnessed a lot of things and am still witnessing. For instance, when I was married and gave birth to my first child, my child became ill. I asked my husband to take the child to the hospital. He declined. And my child died."
Women wearing Islamic headscarves either because of religious conviction or pressure from the family also face gender discrimination, preventing them from their right to education or employment. It is estimated that at least 60% of women in Turkey wear a head scarf.
Since 2010, universities across Turkey started to abandon the official prohibition on women wearing headscarves, but the restrictions in the civil services spilled over to the private sector.