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Woman in Turkey

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Essay title: Woman in Turkey

Woman in Turkey

"If a society does not wage a common struggle to attain a common goal with its women and men, scientifically there is no way for it to get civilized or developed." -- Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Citizens participate politically to obtain a share in the allocation of social resources. But in the contemporary world we see an imbalance characterized by the relative underparticipation of women. We will evaluate reasons for this imbalance in Turkey then examine women's participation in elections, public service, political parties and associations.

While in the Ottoman era women's status was improved over the time when Islamic social hierarchy was accepted, they were still almost totally deprived of political rights. Reform edicts made it possible for them to hold some public offices. There wereassociations headed by women but these functioned as charity organizations. In 1924, the Kemalist Reforms opened the way for the women to join the civil service. In 1930, women gained the right to participate in municipal and, in 1934, national elections. This emancipation fromabove somehow delayed conscious participation of women in politics. It was only in the 1980s that Turkish woman began to see herself as a political actor rather than as a housewife at home with a life based only on her family.

INVISIBLE BARRIERS

Turkey's parliament provides a way for women to participate in politics but barriers still exist to their activity:

--Through the modernization process, the belief that being a female politician would hinder women's traditional family role has lost its significance but not totally disappeared. Recent research shows 68% of women said involvement would not create problems with their spouses and that some problems with children might arise but could be solved.

--Women often prefer other occupations and can view politics as interfering with their career plans.

--Politics requires huge expenditures and Turkish women do not have much capital.

--Women do not benefit completely from educational opportunities, a factor hindering their participation in an elitist democracy.

--A prevailing Islamic view views women's nature (fitrat) appropriate to carry out familial roles while men deal with other issues.. This belief still lingers on in the 1990s among a significant portion of society which to some extent does not identify with the secular state and its policies.

VOTING BEHAVIOR

Gunes Ayata states that since voting demands no extra activity, women vote independently. This statement reflects a change in political participation patterns. In1978, Tekeli states that 83.8% of married couples voted the same way, wives generally following their husbands. In 1962, Ozankaya reached a similar conclusion in research over 4 villages, showing that 75.4% of husbands said they told their wives for whom to vote and 18.5% left them a free choice. In comparison, 11% of women said they vote on their own and 53.4% that they vote in line with their husband's wishes.The trend over time is that weakened patriarchal structure and women's entry in the labor force leads to more independent decisionmaking by women. Researching the relationship between social situation and voting behavior yields interesting results. Married women participate in elections more than single or widowed ones. The reason might be attributed to husband and wife voting as units. However married women still participate 8% less than their spouses. On the basis of class, petit-bourgeois and working class women participate 8.9% more than those of the bourgeoisie and peasantry. In general, working women vote more than housewives, since they are integrated in the wider society through work. In Turkey's most developed city, Istanbul, data from 4 polling stations in the 1973-1975 elections showed women as voting 13.5% less than men

WOMEN IN PUBLIC SERVICE

Turkish women entered parliament in 1934 but the number of female MPs has decreased in time.This decrease may be explained by the notion of "symbolic women MPs." In the early Republic, Ataturk was facing accusations of dictatorship. In order to eliminate this undemocratic image, women's suffrage was granted in 1934. During the one-party regime women had secured their place in the parliament. These guaranteed, reserved seats had begun to be lost when the multi-party regime was established. The struggle for seats among parties toughened. Conservative tendencies of big parties outlawed women MPs from parliament. Small parties, with little likelihood of gaining seats, followed the "symbolic women candidate"

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