The AKP government, which came to power in 2002, devalued women’s labor in line with both contemporary needs of capitalism and aggravated oppression on them as part of religionization. Women constitute a growing portion of salaried workers, yet they work for lower salaries, under harder conditions and diminished security.
By the end of their mandate’s fifteenth year, religious reactionism has become one of the most important determinants of social life. A reactionary generation was actively brought up in politics and also in sects, in religious formal and informal schools, ending up in popularization of reactionism among masses, in agreement with the agenda of capitalism. They gained consent of the majority through their populistic campaigns in the fields of business, education or social policies together with their religious discourse. Reactionism shadows every aspect of women’s life as oppression, bullying and discrimination. “Women and men are not equal”, “women should be beside their husbands”, “motherhood is the holiest of jobs”, “3 children for each home” are examples of how politicians define the social role of women. Studies conducted have shown that every one out of three women in Turkey suffered from physical violence in 2007. This figure have not decreased throughout the years, culminating in the fact that 36% of married women were hit by their husbands at least once during their marriage in 2014 (Altınay, Arat, Violence Against Women in Turkey, 2007, Study on Violence Against Women in Turkey, 2014).
Going out late at night or dressing “openly” were counted as excuses of violence and sexual harassment and helped offenders gain abatements of sentences in courts. Offenders received good conduct abatement just by standing in front of the judges in suits and for unjust provocation because the women they abused put on mini skirts. The intentions to de facto prohibit abortion after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s sensational expression “Abortion is murder” in 2012 were widely condemned. Last year, a similar attempt to legalise rape marriages, which allowed pardoning of the offenders if they married the victim, was withdrawn after public resentment. Religious marriages with more than one women is no longer a crime in the penal code and has become free in practice. All these steps taken count among the reactionary interventions of the AKP government against women’s physical integrity, security and civil rights.
The latest blow of the AKP government over women’s rights is the law that allows muslim clerics (mufti or imams) to conduct civil marriages. Furthermore, resources estimate that a third of adult married women in Turkey were married under the age of 18, for some of those this is even under 15 year of age. With this bill, childhood marriages will be legitimized. This is facilitation of child abuse by the government and selling of girls without any supervision by marriages conducted by imams. Expert jurists’ opinion on this allowance are worrying: “Civil code, an important milestone in progression into secular state, is totally overturned” (Ali Rıza Aydın, former reporter of the supreme court, October 2017)
Women have always been of key political and ideological importance during the battle of AKP with the republican state. Veils were defended as a matter of freedom; allowance of women with veils in public posts and universities became a top-priority issue. The main opposition party CHP and liberals, who had the same approach, approved and supported this attitude. They may not be able to convince workers but successfully pacificated them.
The deterioration of the gains of the republic by AKP is directly proportional to the degree that women are drowned in religious reactionary interventions. The escalating pressure AKP creates over social life provoked an imminent resistance in people upholding republican values. It shall be emphasized that there exists a strong enlightened urban working class that will never obey the rules of AKP regime. Women, who constitute an important part of the working class, are under greater oppression, which is exactly the reason why organized women workers have the potential of displaying the intervention of capital executed by AKP and finally overthrowing it. A key example was demonstrated during the “June Resistance”. Women’s brave uprising and persistence during the June Resistance reveals that they will never submit to such oppressive actions. Yet, at the same time, it shows that such resistance of people will not be enough when political content is lacking.