Reshaping the Function of Girls in Politics: The Case of Turkey


The Istanbul Conference has been on the agenda in current months. The Turkish authorities’s determination on 19 March to withdraw from the settlement and the celebration of its tenth anniversary on 11 Might has attracted a substantial quantity of worldwide concern. However what points does this worldwide conference cope with? Why did Turkey abandon this settlement? And, above all, how is the state of affairs of girls being addressed on the political stage in Turkey? The Council of Europe Conference on Stopping and Combating Violence in opposition to Girls and Home Violence, or as it’s generally recognized, the Istanbul Conference, is an settlement of the Council of Europe following the road that began within the Nineties to struggle in opposition to gender-based violence, particularly in opposition to ladies. It was adopted on the 121st session of Ministers in Istanbul, therefore its title (Council of Europe 2021). Moreover, Turkey was the primary nation to ratify the Conference in March 2012, thus turning into an lively image for bringing gender-based violence from the non-public to the general public sphere. The Conference has been signed by 45 of the 47 Council of Europe nations, except Russia and Azerbaijan, and ratified by 34 of the signatories (Council of Europe 2021b).

The Turkish authorities has justified its withdrawal from the Conference by stating that it’s intrusive regarding the building of gender within the nation, dehumanising and clashing with the normal values on which Turkish society is constructed (‘Mahir Ünal açıkladı! Türkiye İstanbul Sözleşmesi’nden neden ayrıldı?’ 2021). It additionally states that no actual constructive adjustments had been being achieved by means of this Conference (‘Istanbul Conference to run out in Turkey on July 1’ 2021), and that the nation has ample measures in place to fight gender-based violence and shield ladies on the nationwide stage (“Turkey’s Istanbul Conference withdrawal is correct determination” 2021).

Theoretical Framework

It’s noteworthy to watch how the dealing with of gender has advanced in Turkey and what the measures talked about above are. To do this, this text will draw its theoretical framework from the historicist idea of feminism and girls research (Burton 1992, p. 33-34). This text has chosen this framework to supply an in depth and cross-cutting evaluation of the historic developments which have taken place. It permits us to watch the (re)shaping of girls’s position in Turkey’s political sphere. By way of this idea, it’s doable to know the completely different roles that girls and feminist politics have taken for the reason that starting of the twentieth century in formal politics and civil society actions and to look at such evolution.

As Simone de Beauvoir identified in The Second Intercourse, ‘ladies will not be born, however made’ ([1949] 2010, p. 340). It’s, subsequently, essential to watch how they’re constructed varies in accordance with the historic second. Feminist historicism begins to achieve significance within the Nineteen Seventies (Zinsser 2013, p. 238-239). Nonetheless, it has historically been Western historical past that has been analysed in better element (Burton 1992, p. 30-32). This text additionally needs to contribute on this regard, advancing a historic evaluation of Turkey’s feminism.

To be able to contextualise and provides that means to the event of feminism within the place and time analysed, feminist idea ought to by no means be ahistorical. Put otherwise, buying a transparent historic perspective of the current is prime to know it (Burton 1992, p. 33). The historical past of girls, the historical past of feminism, and the historical past of gender will not be the identical and shouldn’t be run collectively. For that, this text seems at Turkey’s historical past of girls within the first part and the historical past of feminism in the second (Smith 2013, p. 269-272).

Along with the historicist idea, this evaluation additionally considers the speculation of gender equality mainstreaming (Daly 2005, p. 435-437). This attitude, proposed by the EU and different worldwide organisations, goals to “promote equality between women and men in all actions and in any respect ranges of public coverage” (European Fee 1996). Regardless of having been criticised for its extreme technocracy, this method is probably the most helpful one when inspecting the idea of gender from a political, public coverage, and macro-level perspective (Daly 2005, p. 436-440). Inside this angle, Sales space and Bennett’s three-legged equality stool idea (2002, p. 440-446), which proposes to analyse the state of gender equality based mostly on public insurance policies, laws, and discourses, is especially related.

This idea has been chosen as a result of it is among the most recognised inside the area of gender equality mainstreaming (Lombardo, Meier & Verloo 2009, p. 5). Moreover, it proposes a strategy that’s straightforward to know and extrapolate, permitting us to watch in an easy and logical manner how gender mainstreaming is launched in numerous spheres, from laws to public coverage passing by means of discourses and associations themselves. Subsequently, its explanatory capability, along with the truth that it has by no means been utilized within the Turkish case earlier than, makes this method appropriate for this evaluation.

Therefore, utilizing each the historicist idea of feminism and of gender equality mainstreaming, this text will attempt to make clear the historic trajectory of how ladies’s participation and roles in politics have been articulated in Turkey, each within the formal sphere—i.e., in parliament, by means of laws and the principle public insurance policies—and within the casual sphere, by means of the calls for of girls’s associations and feminist actions. The purpose is to know how the present state of affairs has come to be from a historic perspective and analyse whether or not and the way equality has been reshaped at completely different instances. It needs to be famous that though this can be a notably gendered method, this text offers solely with the position and dealing with of the feminine query.

Primary historic modifications within the area of formal politics

The historical past of girls’s rights in Turkey is very explicit, with a sudden secularisation and westernisation. Over the past century, the authorized and political standing of girls has undergone huge adjustments.

This text takes as its start line the late Ottoman Empire, the place ladies had been confined to the non-public sphere, and their rights had been centred on what was indicated by the shari’ah (Zilfi 2010, p. 15-20). Through the Tanzimat reforms (1839-76), the difficulty of girls first appeared within the public debate and have become a subject of dialogue. Nonetheless, though some debates on ladies’s rights had been raised, no tangible outcomes had been achieved (Toledano 1998, p. 275-277).

The basic change got here within the interval of the Republic, since 1923, when there was a shift, from an absence of particular measures for girls to authorized equality within the 1924 structure and the 1926 Civil Code. This modification took into consideration among the ladies’s wants and imposed sure restrictions, instituting an intensive and extremely militant westernisation (Kadioğlu 1994, p. 652). This meant that the one ladies who may gain advantage from these adjustments had been those that fulfilled what it meant to be a ‘good Turkish girl/citizen’ from the Kemalist republican perspective (Ozkaeli 2018, p. 130). Throughout this era, a mess of adjustments had been elaborated to convey ladies into the general public sphere (Mango 1999, p. 525-643). Nonetheless, as Yeşim Arat (1989, pp. 33-46) rightly factors out, it’s noteworthy that these adjustments weren’t launched due to strain from ladies however from a male-oriented perspective, resulting in a shift from Ottoman patriarchy to Turkish patriarchy.

After 1934, ladies got the best to vote, and in 1935 the primary 18 ladies entered the Grand Nationwide Meeting (Arat 1989, p. 52-53). Nonetheless, the share of girls within the meeting didn’t improve over time, reaching round 3% in the course of the one-party interval (1925-1945), then declining to about 1% in the course of the subsequent multi-party interval (Arat 1989, p. 52-60). There was an growing pattern for the reason that starting of the twenty first century, reaching 17% at current, the very best whole variety of ladies within the historical past of Turkish parliamentarian. With regard to ladies in greater positions, it was not till 1971 {that a} girl turned Minister, with a complete of 25 ladies having reached these positions, an growing pattern for the reason that mid-Nineties. These ladies have primarily been from the Justice and Improvement Occasion (AKP) or unbiased candidates. Out of 17 ministers, just one girl serves within the cupboard. She presently heads the Ministry of Household and Social Providers, a historically feminine ministerial place (Presidency of the Republic of Turkey 2021). There has solely ever been one girl Prime Minister within the nation, Tansu Çiller, who held the workplace from 1993 to 1996.

Traditionally, after an extended and turbulent political interval, calls for for change, particularly within the Civil Code, are typically caught within the paradox between the parable of getting been the pioneers in introducing ladies’s equality and the small share of girls in politics (Tekeli 1992, p. 141). It was not till the Nineteen Eighties that calls for for change produced particular outcomes, with a broad debate on sure adjustments to the Civil Code, proposals to introduce quotas for girls on occasion lists, and the promise of the creation of a Ministry for Girls (Tekeli 1992, p. 141-143). Nonetheless, these measures took time to materialise. Throughout this era, albeit in 1986, Turkey signed the CEDAW, a world conference to eradicate discrimination in opposition to ladies (Arat 2010, p. 241). Afterward, the primary adjustments started to be made originally of the twenty first century. In 2001, important amendments to the Civil Code had been adopted, adopted in 2004 by new amendments within the Penal Code introducing actual adjustments and responding to among the feminist calls for.

Throughout AKP’s interval in authorities, since 2002, one of many amendments that generated probably the most consideration and debate was the ban on sporting the veil in public establishments, which was eradicated in 2013 after a lot controversy and mobilisation. Moreover, a number of insurance policies had been developed to actively introduce ladies in numerous public spheres (Çavdar & Yaşar 2020, p. 8-15). Nonetheless, a sure paradigm shift is noticed, transferring from ‘gender equality’ to ‘gender justice’ and a means of ‘de-Europeanisation’ in the way in which gender is addressed, aiming in the direction of a return to Turkish id and conventional roles (Bodur Ün 2021, p. 131-134). 

Activism: The opposite facet of demand and girls in politics

Through the republican interval (1925-1945), the adjustments that happened are temporally framed inside the first wave of feminism on the worldwide stage. Nonetheless, ladies had been taken as an instrument to indicate change and westernisation (Arat 1989, p. 46). Throughout this era, legislative adjustments and the introduction of girls into the general public sphere had been launched, however, as talked about within the earlier part, these adjustments had been made out of a male perspective and directed in the direction of a really explicit profile of girls who would match into the best of the Kemalist Turkish girl.

As a result of tumultuous interval that adopted the institution of the Republic, along with the change to a multi-party system and three coups d’état, the second wave of feminism took a barely longer time to reach than within the worldwide area. After the 1980 coup d’état, when events had been closed, and political participation was vetoed for the earlier folks in energy, the feminist actions discovered a window of alternative to push for political change (Diner & Toktaş 2010, p. 45). Sure ladies’s circles started to query the discourse of gender equality promoted by the elites in energy for the reason that institution of the Republic. The principle points on this second wave had been associated to sexuality, the underrepresentation of girls within the media, the violence in opposition to ladies, and using the veil, amongst others. The motto ‘the private is political’ outlined the calls for of this era (Keysan 2019, p. 52). An auspicious civil society started to type, giving rise to the second wave of Turkish feminism, with initiatives such because the Purple Needle (Mor Iğne) or Purple Roof (Mor Çatı), which achieved a substantial amount of help among the many feminine public (Diner & Toktaş 2010, p. 46). The second wave of Turkish feminism is prime as a result of, for the primary time, adjustments had been demanded by the feminine inhabitants itself. Organised by means of a community of associations, they managed to result in actual adjustments and set up analysis teams, magazines, or ladies’s help networks, amongst others (Coşar & Onbaşi 2008, p.327).

The third wave of Turkish feminism started within the Nineties and is intently associated to the event of id politics. Throughout this era, the introduction of recent identities of Turkish ladies was central. The third wave was marked by Islamic and Kurdish ladies actions’ critiques to mainstream Turkish feminism (Diner & Toktaş 2010, p.47-48). From the spheres of the Islamic ladies organisations, the principle criticisms targeted on the extreme secularisation of the state, advocating for the free use of the veil as a instrument for girls’s liberation (Keysan 2019, p.79). Relating to the Kurdish ladies’s motion, its principal criticisms targeted on male domination within the Kurdish social construction and conventional Turkish feminism’s ignorance of this social group and its explicit issues (Keysan 2019, 56).

Likewise, in the course of the Nineties, with the opportunity of Turkey’s accession to the EU, ladies’s teams from completely different backgrounds lobbied and labored collaboratively to make sure that their pursuits and calls for had been included within the harmonisation and adaptation of the acquis communautaire (Kabasakal Arat 2017, p. 253). Equally, Kemalist, Kurdish and Islamist ladies labored collectively on the suggestions for the amendments to the 2002 Civil Code (Arat 2010, p. 241).

After the institutionalisation of the feminist motion within the Nineties, a lot of organisations associated to the sector started to emerge. Because the late Nineties and early 2000s, there was a pattern of NGOisation of feminism, with an more and more dense community of associations and project-based feminism with its supporters and severe criticisms inside the motion (Keysan 2019, p.54-58). This course of has come about partly as a result of EU’s help for civil society, which has allotted important funds and programmes for bottom-up participation. Additionally, in the course of the first decade of the AKP interval, the discourse modified. The occasion sought to painting itself as consultant of civil society, more and more speaking concerning the integration and participation of organisations within the debate. (Keysan 2019, p. 85)

Through the AKP interval, two phases could be defied: the primary from 2002 to 2011, with sturdy integration of civil society, and the second from 2011 to the current, with each a shift in discourse (Keysan 2019, 95) and with the implementation of measures such because the modification of the Ministry of Girls and Household to the Ministry of Household and Social Affairs. On this final interval, public discourses targeted on gender justice as a substitute of gender equality and highlighted and underscored the position of girls as moms. Civil society denounces that just some organisations are being included in policy-making processes and as advisors, as is the case of the organisation KADEM (Negron Gonzales 2016, p. 206). Subsequently, clashes between civil society calls for and authorities measures have gotten more and more widespread (Keysan 2019, p. 95-98).


This text has proven that to know or seize the present state of gender politics, a historic perspective is required. It’s essential to take a look at the historical past and key milestones that girls in politics in Turkey have skilled and achieved to know the present state of affairs and the way it has come to be. With out contemplating the republican interval, the completely different feminist waves, or the AKP intervals, amongst others, and observing how the determine of girls has been constructed and handled in politics at every of those levels, it’s not doable to know the debates that come up right now.

Thus, we are able to observe that there was an abrupt and fixed reshaping of gender politics and feminism in Turkish politics over the past century, transferring from Ottoman patriarchy to Turkish patriarchy and from ladies’s rights advocacy to organised activism. Through the interval of Turkish patriarchy, there have been a number of phases within the therapy of girls, from male-oriented Kemalism to the introduction of girls’s calls for, the organisation of Islamist and Kurdish ladies, and at last, with a rising pattern of NGOisation in the direction of civil society participation in politics. Nonetheless, as this text has proven, there was a shift within the authorities’s gender discourse from 2011 to the current (Keysan 2019, p. 96) and a pattern of additional complexification with new nationwide and worldwide actors.

Following the methodology of mainstreaming gender equality evaluation proposed by Sales space and Bennett (2002, p. 440-446) of the three-legged equality stool, it may be noticed that, within the Turkish case, this stool has by no means managed to have all of its ‘legs’ on the identical time. Nonetheless, in the course of the mid-Nineties and the primary section of the AKP authorities, better equality was achieved. Throughout this era, a extra important variety of legislative measures had been carried out, with the amendments of the Civil and Penal Code, the introduction of particular public insurance policies extremely targeted on the calls for of girls’s actions, and the involvement of nationwide NGOs and worldwide our bodies. Therefore, the ‘three legs’ had a barely extra harmonious evolution sample throughout that point. Nonetheless, different intervals present a much less balanced improvement or development. That’s the case of the analysed interval between the Republican Period and the 1980 coup d’état when the ‘leg’ of associations and discourses was the one which advanced to a lesser extent. In another way, from the Nineteen Eighties to the current day, this ‘leg’ has been extremely developed, with speedy advances and implications, one thing that describes and elucidates the nation’s present debates. Therefore, this analytical instrument permits us to seize and clarify the dynamics and patterns of change of gender mainstreaming.

Nonetheless, with the adjustments within the present authorities discourse, searching for gender justice slightly than gender equality, there’s a new reshaping of the determine of girls. That is inflicting some clashes between the calls for of civil society and the governmental measures, corresponding to the entire debate of the withdrawal from the Istanbul Conference.

As President Erdoğan mentioned in 2011 ‘I don’t imagine within the equality of women and men. I imagine in equal alternatives. Women and men are completely different and complementary’ (Kandiyoti & Heinen 2011, p. 10). Subsequently, the evolution of this new pattern must be rigorously analysed for its future penalties on the position of girls in politics in Turkey. 


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