Sahin: education is key
Sahin says Turkey has advanced gender equality in primary education.
By Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye in Istanbul – 16/11/11
In part two of this interview, Turkey's Minister of Family and Social Policy Fatma Sahin talks with SES Türkiye correspondent Menekse Tokyay about child brides, female education and employment, and the European Commission's Progress Report.
SES Türkiye: What are the main initiatives of your ministry regarding the issue of child brides?
Sahin: Our ministry gave support to the "Child Brides Project" co-ordinated by the women's association Flying Broom and the Sabanci Foundation. Under this project, outstanding work was carried out in 54 provinces in Turkey. The project showed us clearly that education is a key to solving this issue.
We [the government] succeeded in increasing the enrolment rate of girls in primary schools to 98%. Our objective is to make it 100%. If we can carry this success on to secondary schools, we may easily decrease these child marriages considerably. For that reason, we signed an important protocol with the Religious Affairs Directorate.
According to the protocol, imams of the mosques [in Friday prayers every week] will explain that Islam does not require early marriages and early childbirths. On the one hand, we will strengthen women with education, while we will try to transform the patriarchal mentality.
SES Türkiye: The public in Turkey was left astonished by the recent court decision to reduce the sentence of 26 men convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl. As a minister, you showed a strong reaction. What are your thoughts about that case?
Sahin: We are still waiting for the final decision of the Supreme Court of Appeals. However, if the final decision is similar to the one being discussed in the media, then I cannot approve of it both as a woman and a mother. Of course, the Turkish Republic is governed by the rule of law and we should respect all judicial decisions.
However, that decision should be fair and meet the requirements of the public conscious. We cannot accept the assumption that a 13-year-old girl gave her consent to such a mass rape. This viewpoint is characteristic of the male viewpoint.
SES Türkiye: What do you think about the latest Progress Report of the European Commission, especially its assessments about family and social policies?
Sahin: The Report says that gender inequality in girls' education continues, and is even widening. However, in primary education, the rates of girls' and boys' enrolment are 98% and 98.5%, respectively. So, it has become almost equal. In secondary education, the girls' enrolment rate was increased from 62.2% to 66.1%. Therefore, we told the head of EU enlargement to use more encouraging language in upcoming reports based on all figures.
In 2008, we adopted an important law. We started positive discrimination in women's employment and recorded a women's employment participation rate of 30.3%, the highest level in the history of the Turkish Republic.
Violence against women is a national problem, but it is also a global problem. Our government follows closely all structural changes in terms of creating a legal framework and practices. I should note that the Commission report does not follow all these developments in real time and lags behind our successful initiatives.
Honestly, this does not mean that everything in the garden is rosy. However, some critics were far from being fair. The statistics in the report, especially those regarding education and employment, fall well short of the Turkish reality.