Is the AKP biased against women in government?

While women have played a historical role in the Republic of Turkey’s democratic process, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) appears to be attempting to dismantle this legacy.

al-monitor Demonstrators take part in a protest against the Justice and Development Party's policy toward women, Ankara, Nov. 16, 2013. Photo by ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images.

Topics covered

women's rights, women, turkey, justice and development party, democracy in turkey

Dec 5, 2013

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government appears determined to eradicate three women’s institutions set up within the state mechanism following years of dedicated struggle by women’s movements. The first step back in that direction came in 2011. The Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs that was created in 1991 after years of hard work saw the word “women” dropped from its title and became Ministry of Families and Social Policies. Now, there are efforts to close down the parliamentary Commission on Opportunity Equality for Women and Men (KEFEK) and replace it with Commission on Families and Social Policies. The only institution with “women” in its title, the Directorate of Women’s Status, has been systematically rendered functionless for the past two years and is about to be closed down.

The news that KEFEK will be closed down as part of changes to parliamentary bylaws hit the women’s agenda of the country like a bomb. All women’s organizations jointly launched an incredible messaging and phone campaign targeting women parliamentarians. Messages to my own email increased by four or five times.

Major women’s organizations such as the Equality Monitoring Group, the  Righteous Women Platform, Women’s Associations Federation of Turkey, the Association to Support Women [Political] Candidates, the Women’s Congress and the End Violence Platform have became a single body to express their reactions through newspaper ads and statements.

In the last part of an advertisement, they warned that the word “women” is being erased from the state structure. It said: “ Led by the UN convention to eliminate all discrimination against women, many other conventions and accords Turkey is a party to and international organizations it is a member of require national mechanisms to ensure equality between women and men. To eliminate those who exist instead of strengthening them is a blatantly anti-women policy. Enough is enough!  It is the joint responsibility of all  parliamentary political parties and parliamentarians to protect the state institutions about women and ensure representation of women in decision-making mechanisms.  We are calling on all of them to do their duties to stop this initiative. We are awaiting an urgent explanation from the government.”

Institutionalizing equality of the sexes in Turkey under the state structure has a 20-year history. Such institutions were seen as an integral part of the democratization process.

Selma Acuner of Ankara University, one of the most knowledgeable names on the subject, describes this last move by the AKP government as an important indicator of their policy of marginalizing women and not acknowledging them as individuals and citizens. She asks: “Is this a coup against women?”

Yes, we can surely say that the AKP mentality that makes family sacred is engaged in a kind of coup against women. This mentality was already seen by their putting women into the legal category of the "disadvantaged" along with children, the elderly and handicapped, and thus announcing that women are not equal to men.

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