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In Turkey, Women’s Issues Simmer in the Background

Monday, July 1, 2013

Women have often been the face of anti-government protests taking place in Turkey over the past month. Clues to gender tensions come from headlines about a rape case involving police, government condemnation of abortion and more women in the work force.

Subhead: 
Women have often been the face of anti-government protests taking place in Turkey over the past month. Clues to gender tensions come from headlines about a rape case involving police, government condemnation of abortion and more women in the work force.

 

Women sit in Taksim Square

Women sit in Taksim square mourning the deaths of fellow demonstrators involved in the Gezi Park protests.

                                                                                                                    Credit: Angela Montierth

 

ISTANBUL, Turkey (WOMENSENEWS)—As anti-government demonstrators continue resisting police forces in Taksim square and Gezi park here many photos showing police brutality against female protestors have been circulating around the web.
 
One, from protests on June 22, shows a woman in a black dress standing in front of a Mass Incident Intervention Vehicle (TOMA) in Istanbul. Last week that woman, Kale Mullen, an Australian exchange student, sought to downplay her personal significance. “The photograph is not about me anymore. If we think on a general scale, my action is nothing,” Hurriyet Daily News reported June 25.
 
In the backdrop of the demonstrations, recent news stories do offer a look at the general scale of issues affecting women in Turkey, where the economy has been rapidly developing under an Islamist government elected in 2003.
 
One is the conflict between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s urgings of women to have more children and stay at home despite the rapid rise in women’s work force participation. Excluding agricultural work, women working outside the home rose to around 4.8 million in February 2013, up from 3.2 million in February 2008, a rise of about 50 percent within six years, reported Hurriyet Daily News on June 24. 
 
Then there is the issue of abortion. On June 25 the Turkish Gynecologists and Obstetricians' Association spoke out against recent comments by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling abortions "murder" and Caesarian sections a plot to "sterilize women," Today's Zaman reported. “Turkish gynecologists across the country put their hearts and souls into maternal and infant health,” the group that represents almost 5,000 gynecologists said in a press statement. “Caesarian section is a medical procedure to which doctors resort only when necessary to save lives of the mother and the baby, not a method of sterilization.”  
 
The problem of violence against women has been showcased by the high-profile rape case in southeastern Turkey involving four police officers and charges by a 16-year-old young women. The court originally approved the release of all four suspects, triggering some outcry against that decision. The Hurriyet Daily News reported on June 25 that one suspect, identified as M.T., was arrested.
 
During the first three months of 2013, 47 women were killed as a result of domestic violence in Turkey and a further 38 were victims of rape, Today's Zaman reported June 25.
 
 
Angela Montierth is a freelance journalist interning as a foreign correspondent from Istanbul, Turkey during the months of  June and July 2013.
 
 

 

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