Women’s human rights in Turkey / Global migration trends for women

1)Women’s human rights in Turkey – challenges and prospects.

An interview with Pinar Ilkkaracan from Women for Women’s Human Rights –
New Ways.

By Rochelle Jones.

2) Global migration trends for women: A review of the latest United Nations
World Survey on the Role of Women in Development.

By Rochelle Jones.


AWID: Could you please tell us about the work of WWHR - NEW WAYS?

Pinar: Women for Women's Human Rights (WWHR) - NEW WAYS was founded in 1993
in Turkey, inspired by the success of the women's movement at the UN World
Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. We aim to promote women's human
rights on the local, national, regional and international levels. We have
adopted a multi-faceted approach in our work, linking human rights
education, training, advocacy and lobbying, research and publications, and
networking. On the international level, we have been working on advocacy
for women's human rights at the UN level. We have also initiated and
coordinated the first solidarity network of NGOs and academics working for
advocacy and lobbying towards sexuality and human rights in the Middle
East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. The network works under the name
The Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies. Our most
recent activity in this area is an upcoming conference titled ''Gender,
Sexuality and Law Reform in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast
Asia'', which will be held in Istanbul at the beginning of April.

On the national level, WWHR has been a leading organization for advocacy
and lobbying for legal reforms. In 1997 and 1998, we initiated and
coordinated the Campaign against Virginity Testing and the Campaign for
Protection Orders for survivors of domestic violence. In 2000-2001, we
acted as the secretariat for the Campaign for Full Equality in the Turkish
Civil Code. In 2002, immediately after the success of the Civil Code
Campaign, we initiated and coordinated the Campaign for the Reform of the
Turkish Penal Code from a Gender Perspective, which continued
until 2004. These campaigns resulted in the enactment of protection orders,
a ministerial ban of
virginity testing, full equality in the Turkish Civil Code and more than 30
amendments in the Turkish Penal Code towards gender equality.

Our Human Rights Education Program for Women, which started in 1995, is
celebrating its 10th anniversary. The program has a nation-wide outreach
through the Community Centers located in 30 provinces spread throughout all
seven geographic regions of Turkey and has reached to more than 4000
women up to date. The ultimate aim of the program is to encourage women to
form grassroots organizations around their needs and more than 15 women's
associations and initiatives were formed by women who participated in the
training. We also have several publications, including books and research
articles in English, Turkish and Arabic (for a full list of our
publications, please see our website, ).

AWID: How would you describe the women's rights situation in Turkey? What
are the important campaign areas?

Pinar: The last decade has witnessed major advancements towards the
realization of women's human rights in Turkey, largely due to the
determined and successful advocacy efforts and campaigns organized by the
women's movement. Until the late 90's, the national legislation in Turkey
contained various discriminatory provisions and an overarching patriarchal
perspective, be it in civil, penal, or labor laws, despite the
constitutional gender equality principal and numerous international
documents Turkey is signatory to.

This situation has rapidly been transforming due to several campaigns,
beginning with the adoption of the law on protection orders aiming to
prevent domestic violence in 1998, followed by the reform of the Civil Code
in 2001, and most recently the Turkish Penal Code Reform in 2004. Through
these reforms, women have attained the legal basis to exercise their human
rights and demand full gender equality to a large extent. The previous
legislative system granted men supremacy in marriage; restricted her
decision making power in the family; regarded women's
bodies and sexuality as commodities of men, the family or the society and
legitimized human rights violations like forced marriages, marital rape,
honor killings etc.. This has been extensively changed with the reforms of
the Civil and Penal Codes.

We are now working on two campaigns - a campaign to realize our remaining
demands in the Turkish penal Code and a campaign to increase public
awareness for these reforms and ensure their implementation.

AWID: What are the remaining reforms in the Turkish Penal Code that you
mentioned, and what have been the gains from the campaign?

Pinar: More than 30 amendments to ensure gender equality and sexual and
bodily rights are made in the new Turkish Penal Code. For example, the
notion that women's bodies and sexuality are commodities of the society and
men, and that sexual offences are to be regulated in reference to
patriarchal social constructs such as ''society's traditions of morality'',
''chastity'', ''honor'' have been stamped out. This crucial amendment
legally acknowledges women's ownership of their bodies and sexuality in
accordance with global human rights norms. Just to name a few other
reforms, sexual crimes such as sexual abuse or rape are finally named as
such, with progressive definitions, defining them as crimes against
''sexual integrity.''All references to patriarchal concepts like chastity,
morality, shame or indecent behavior are eliminated. Previously existing
discriminations against non-virgin or unmarried women are abolished. Sexual
harassment at work place is criminalized for the first time. Sexual
assaults by security forces are defined as “aggravated offences''.

During the campaign, we experienced the highest resistance by the
parliament against our demands around the issues of honor crimes, virginity
testing and sexual orientation. Although an amendment was made to include a
sentence .in the justification of the article on ''Unjust Provocation,''
that this article cannot be applied to grant reductions to honor killing
perpetrators, our demand to define honor killings as ''aggravated
homicide'' was only partially accepted. Instead of ''honor killings,''
''killings in the name of customary law'' have been defined as aggravated
homicide, which does not encompass all honor killings. Our impression is
that they have intentionally tried to leave a door open to grant sentence
reductions to perpetrators of honor killings.

Our demand to explicitly ban and criminalize virginity testing under all
circumstances has been declined. Although our demand to explicitly
criminalize ''discrimination based on sexual orientation'' was initially
accepted by the justice commission, it was later removed by an intervention
of the Minister of Justice. A similar development took place with the
extension of the abortion period from 10 weeks to 12 weeks, although it was
initially accepted, it was removed later.

One of the most problematic issues with the new penal code is a new article
which penalizes consensual sexual relations of youth aged 15 - 18 upon
complaint. Even the old penal code did not have such an article, and in
that sense, it constitutes a grave backlash.

AWID: We have all been shocked to see the media coverage of the violent
crackdown on the International Women's Day demonstrators. What are your
insights into this event, and how does this reflect on women's rights in
Turkey in General?

Pinar: Unfortunately, I cannot say that the police violence on the
International Women's Day came as a surprise to us, as those living in
Turkey. None of the reforms I have summarized above have been an easy,
ready-made accomplishment for the women's movement in Turkey. On the
contrary, we were often faced with a combination of resistant conservative
forces from the Parliament and government officials. We had to overcome the
challenge of not only of finding effective and diverse strategies of
advocacy to overcome the resistance of governments to gender equality, but
also of making our demands heard in a rather volatile political atmosphere.
Turkey has been going through a very difficult phase in the last years with
a strong demand from the
civil society for protection of human rights on the one hand, and
increasing religious right and nationalist movements on the other hand. In
case of the women's movement, we have first hand experience that the
reforms we have realized have taken place due to a very efficient campaigns
and advocacy and despite the strong resistance of the present and previous
governments. I think the police violence witnessed on the International
Women's Day reflects this conflict.

AWID: As an organisation you have never used potential EU membership as a
platform for pushing for full recognition of women's rights – promoting
instead the simple fact that women's rights are human rights. What do you
think will change for women, however, if Turkey becomes an EU member?

Pinar: Yes, we have never used potential EU membership as a strategy to
push for full recognition of women's rights in our campaigns, instead we
have always underlined that the reforms we demand should take place not
because of Turkey's candidacy to the EU, but because WE, AS WOMEN LIVING IN
TURKEY WANT THEM AND because we have a full right to gender equality as
equal citizens! Apart from the fact that this was the right strategy as we
believe, we also wanted to prevent any backlash which might come from the
religious and nationalist right wing movements, which could argue that
gender equality is an agenda of the West, forced on Turkey or that sexual
rights, for example are incompatible with our so-called ''national or
religious values''. However, now that the reforms are realized, I think EU
membership will be very useful to prevent any backlash that might come from
the religious and nationalist right wing movements and to ensure an
effective implementation of the reforms.

2)Global migration trends for women: A review of the latest United Nations
World Survey on the Role of Women in Development.

By Rochelle Jones.

The World Survey on the Role of Women in Development focuses on selective
development issues that have an impact on women in the economy. This fifth
World Survey, released in early March 2005, focuses on women and
international migration and reflects the growing interest in migration
trends and dynamics in an increasingly globalised world. Ninety million
women currently reside outside their countries of origin and according to
the report, it is not the presence of women in migration streams that is
unusual, but the scale of the migration and the entry of women into
previously male migration streams that is notable. Women’s representation
among all international migrants has risen from 46 percent in 1960 to 49
percent in 2000. With a significant amount of effort directed towards the
role of gender in development, it is exciting to see such a comprehensive
report focusing on the critical position that gender has in regards to the
push and pull factors behind global migration streams and the consequences
of migration.

The report deals with all forms of migration, including legal and forced
migration, refugees and trafficking, and is divided into the following

1.Gender equality and the international migration of women;
2.Nexus between migration, poverty eradication and sustainable
3.Migration for family and work purposes;
4.Forced migration – refugees and displaced women
5.Integration of migrant women in host countries
7.Migration and health.

The survey concludes with recommendations for a gender-responsive policy
framework aimed at national governments, international organisations and
others involved with migration issues.

Some of the key statistics in the report that are of particular interest
include the following:

·Women are increasingly migrating on their own and are the principal wage
earners who remit money to their families in their countries of origin;

·Women may be empowered from the experience of migration if they are
leaving economic hardship or a situation where they have been subjected to
patriarchal authority, but even so, the jobs that most women find in the
host countries are in traditional female occupations such as domestic work
and the garment industry – perpetuating the gendered division of labour.

·Women remaining in their countries of origin whose family members migrate
for the purposes of work, can often find themselves in a position where
they become more involved in their communities and become more respected
members. On the other side, however, women who stay behind often must work
harder and take on multiple tasks on top of domestic and family duties.

·Gender inequality in the country of origin is one of the biggest
motivating factors for women to migrate, and often when they reach their
host country, they are faced with the double burden of being female and a
migrant. This burden increases with regards to language and cultural

·Refugee women face particular problems, not just in terms of their legal
and physical protection, but also due to the fact that gender divisions
exist within refugee camps also – impacting access to resources and

·There are still many discriminatory laws on emigration and immigration of
voluntary migrants that affect the protection of migrant women.

·The impact of migration on women’s health is complex, depending on whether
she is migrating or staying behind, and what types of work she is involved
in. Trafficking victims are at the most serious risk in terms of injuries
and sexually transmitted diseases, and refugee women often suffer from
post-traumatic stress disorder with little or no recourse to treatment and

One of the most valuable chapters in the report provides a detailed
analysis of the importance of looking at migration from a gender
perspective. As the statistics above imply, gender is integral to all
stages of migration, and plays a crucial role both in the countries of
origin and the host countries. The report recognises that gender is a “core
organizing principle of social relations, including hierarchical relations,
in all societies”. A gender perspective on migration “views the migration
of women and men as influenced by beliefs and expectations about
appropriate behaviours for women and men and between women and men, which
are reinforced in economic, political and social institutions”.

Importantly, the report highlights the dearth of data relating to women and
migration in terms of availability, quality and comparability. There are
difficulties regarding data on certain types of migrants such as those who
cross borders without authorization, and there is a real need for research
to be sex and age disaggregated in order to properly assess migration

The UN World Survey discussed several factors that have contributed to the
increase in international migration, including economic globalisation,
demographic trends, the transportation and communications revolutions, and
the growth in transnational communities or people with multiple
nationalities and citizenships. Interestingly, in terms of economic
globalisation, the report only mentioned the role of linked economies and
increased job opportunities from multinational corporations as factors in
increasing migration levels. I think that there should have been a firm
recognition of the role that economic globalisation has played in
increasing the poverty levels of many countries, forcing people to cross
borders for better opportunities.

Some of the recommendations from the UN World Survey include:

·Ratification and monitoring of all international legal instruments that
promote and protect the rights of women and girl migrants.
·Develop policies that recognise the contributions of migrant women in
countries of destination.
·Enhancing employment opportunities and access to education, training, safe
and affordable housing, health care and other services.
·Empowerment of women to participate in decisions affecting them.

You can download the full report at

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