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11 - Gender Equality from a Constitutional Perspective: The Case of Turkey

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 January 2010

Hilal Elver
Affiliation:
Distinguished visiting professor, UCSB, Global and International Studies Program
Beverley Baines
Affiliation:
Queen's University, Ontario
Ruth Rubio-Marin
Affiliation:
Universidad de Sevilla
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Summary

POINT OF DEPARTURE

The Modernization Project of Turkey and the Identity of Women as Political Agents

Turkey, a bridge connecting Asia and Europe, occupies the geographic border zone between two vastly different regions of the world: the East and the West. This gives Turkey a unique position, as it has cultural, social, and legal characteristics of both regions and tries to achieve the values of both in its current search for identity. This makes it difficult and puzzling to evaluate the status of women in Turkey.

Although 98 percent of its population is Muslim, Turkey has had no state religion since 1924, when the Constitution defined the country as “secular.” Indeed, Turkey's commitment to Western values was so widely accepted that, after September 11, many mainstream Western media reports did not even include Turkey on their lists of Muslim countries. Many journalistic articles in the United States and elsewhere advance the view that Turkey is the only modern, democratic Muslim society, a model for the rest of the Islamic world. This interpretation is quite understandable, considering that in the early 1920s, among other reforms, Turkey changed its entire legal system from the Islamic Shari-a to the Continental European system, in effect adopting a Western secular order.

This abrupt transition had a strong impact on the status of Turkish women. Since the creation of the modern Turkish Republic in 1923, the ultimate aim of the founders has been to gain acceptance among the European states.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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References

Feride Acar and Ayse Gunes Ayata, eds., Gender and Identity Construction: Women of Central Asia, Caucasus, and Turkey (Boston: Brill, 2000)
Canan Arin, The Legal Status of Women in Turkey (Istanbul: Women for Women's Human Rights, 1996)
Pinar Ilkkaracan, A Brief Overview of Women's Movements in Turkey (Istanbul: Women for Women's Rights, 1996)
Pinar Ilkkaracan, ed., Women and Sexuality in Muslim Societies (Istanbul: Women for Women's Rights, 2000)
Julie Marcus, A Word of Difference: Islam and Gender Hierarchy in Turkey (London: Zed, 1992)
Ergun Ozbudun, Contemporary Turkish Politics: Challenges to Democratic Consolidation (Boulder, CO: Lynee Rienner Publishers, 2000)
Elisabeth Ozdalga, The Veiling Issue: Official Secularism and Popular Islam in Modern Turkey (Richmond: Curzon, 1998)
Atilla Ozer, Comparative Study on Two Constitutions: 1961 and 1982 [Turkish] (Istanbul: Bilim Yayinlari, 1984)
Ayse Saktanber, Living Islam: Women and Islamic Politics in Turkey (London: I. B. Tauris, 2000)
Mumtaz Soysal, Salient Points of the Turkish Constitution [Turkish] (Ankara: Bilgi Yayinevi, 1995)
The Commission of the EC. Brussels, “2001 Regular Report on Turkey's Progress toward Accession of the EC,” online: The Commission of the EU <www.deltur. cec.eu.int> (date accessed: February 11, 2002)
UNDP and The General Directorate on the Status and Problems of Women, “Women in Turkey: 1999, online: Website of the General Directorate on the Status and Problems of Women, <www.kssgm.gov.tr> (date accessed: February 10, 2002)
“Iwraw Country Report on Turkey” online: IWRAW Publications: Country Reports: Turkey <www.igc.org/iwraw/publications/countries/turkey.html> (date accessed: April 16, 2002)
Zeynep Zilelioglu, “Can Woman in Islamic Society Reclaim Their Sexuality?” (Istanbul: Turkish Daily News, August 27, 2000), online: Turkish Daily News <www.turkishdailynews.com> (date accessed September 2000)

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