It's long been said that government has no business in people's bedrooms. Government, however, hasn't always agreed.
But this time, at least, it appears to be blushing.
On Dec. 15, Turkish parliamentarian Fatma Kaplan Hurriyet, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), brought a thick book to parliament. The book’s title was “Marriage and Family Life.” Hurriyet explained to her colleagues that this book is handed out as a gift to all newlyweds in Kutahya province. In Turkey, all legal marriages are conducted in civil ceremonies by the municipality.
As the legislator highlighted, the book is filled with rather extraordinary sexual scenarios, so much so that it rocked Turkish social media.
Here are some of the more graphic arguments from this intriguing book.
The book was written mostly for men, addressing them directly and advising what to do about their wives. For example, it advises against talking during sex, because a child born as a result of such intercourse will stutter or, even worse, be mute. If simply talking can have such devastating results, one cheeky Twitter user wanted to know, "What if we scream when we get down?"
The book also says that if a couple does not obey the sexual intercourse rules and if the wife is not passionate during sex, then their child will be stupid — prompting another social commentator to write, “Friends, let’s pray during intercourse so the child will be a scholar.”
Men are advised to marry fertile and cute women, but they should be virgins. It also says women should not be frigid and nonresponsive in bed; rather, they should be warm and active. A woman’s moves should encourage her man to be proud and strong in bed.
A woman is required to dress sexy for her men, even if he doesn't treat her well. Indeed, if a woman fails to appear attractive at home for her husband and does not obey his wishes, the book says the man should hit her. Men are the shepherds, and beating a woman reminds her who the ruler of the house is. It's almost like administering medicine, the book counsels. It's good for them.
After a beating, the wife is advised to serve her husband coffee in a sexy outfit in order to end the conflict with make-up sex. In any case, wives best not complain.
If a husband is angry, his wife should keep quiet but apologize and seek forgiveness. It is best that women refrain from angering their husbands.
The book not only encourages domestic violence but also polygamy. It employs an intriguing logic here, as well: If your wife is grumpy, why divorce her and let her become another man's burden? Better to get another wife, which the book suggests would generate competition between the wives and ease their temperaments. Polygamy is illegal in Turkey, but its popularity is on the rise.
Continuing to dispense advice that goes against medical science, the book blames birth defects on lackluster sexual drive.
The "family life" part of the book provides detailed advice on women’s employment. It suggests it's best if a wife does not seek a job outside the house, because 50% of women in the workplace are sexually harassed and their sexual interest toward their husbands will decline. The author raises a red flag for all husbands whose wives are employed: If a woman sees a man more handsome than her own, her mind will wander toward that more attractive man. As this would lead to a crisis in the household, to be safe, women should be housewives.
There is wise advice about parenting also, particularly about when your children should be married. The author warns that if marriage is delayed, the consequences will be dire. Men should marry between the ages 22 and 24 and girls are ripe between 16 and 18. Individuals who are physically and mentally advanced for their ages can marry younger.
The author, Hasan Caliskan, has worked for the Religious Affairs Directorate, although after a public uproar Dec. 19, the directorate announced that if municipalities are to distribute such books, they should first consult the directorate. The announcement also said the book is based upon wrong traditions and cannot be considered compatible with Islamic values. Yet, Kutahya municipal officials told the press they have not received any complaints from the public.
And this is not the only such book in circulation. On Dec. 16, Hurriyet held a press conference, this time holding Pamukkale municipality’s booklet titled “Marriage and Its Sanctity,” which can be viewed, at best, as even more humiliating for women than the Kutahya publication. This one suggests that women are mentally incomplete, so they should not be consulted on any matter. The more a man beats his wife, it says, the more she will desire him sexually. Women should not go to parks or gyms. Ballet and theater are devils' nests. Women should not go out of the house without the permission of their husbands, and if the wives are Christians or Jews, husbands have a right to ban them from going to their temples.
Al-Monitor spoke with Gulsum Kav, chairwoman of a group called We Will Stop the Murder of Women Platform, about these booklets and their impact on society. Kav said, “We were aware of the fact that AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party] municipalities wanted to convince women that they have no rights, but with this booklet we learn more details."
Kav said government authorities should not be giving civil marriage participants a book representing any one religion’s beliefs. Kav also raised another issue: The Kutahya mayor justifies the book as a way of curbing the divorce rate. The AKP has been discouraging women from divorce, even in abusive marriages.
Lawyer and activist Diren Cevahir Sen told Al-Monitor these booklets are another sign of how the government uses every layer of the state as a tool to spread misogyny and strengthen patriarchy.
Emergency law has only made matters worse for women in Turkey. For example, a young female author, Seray Sahiner, on a business trip in Bursa became a victim. Two policemen entered her hotel room in the middle of the night without permission and took her into custody, allegedly for sarcastically referring to one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sons as a genius in her writings. She was promptly released. Was this sort of forced entry necessary for a nonviolent alleged crime? Plus, is it really appropriate, let alone acceptable, by Islamist standards for male officers to barge into the bedroom of a sleeping woman? According to the booklet, why not? Isn't it normal for women in the workforce to be sexually harassed and abused?
Violence against women is spreading even faster under the guise of the emergency law in Turkey. Sen emphasized that the streets are increasingly unsafe for females of all ages. Kav concurs with her, adding that the “number of women’s murders, sexual abuse and harassment cases, and attacks on our rights from all angles [have] increased."
"But the intriguing part is that the number of women joining in the struggle to peacefully resist also [has] increased,” she added.
Still, the public’s main focus has been on the sexual scenarios of the books. Hundreds of comments poured in on social media as to why the AKP is against dirty talking and about other bogus advice published as Islamic guidelines. During the times of Islamists in Turkey, sex has become a less-censured topic and public commentary on it has increased significantly. However, the way the subject is treated seems reminiscent of the 16th and 17th centuries — and that is scary for women and minors.