Press release

Women's rights in Turkey: MEPs say improvements still needed

Women's rights/Equal opportunities - 13-02-2007 - 14:06
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Turkey's legal framework on women's rights "has in general been satisfactory, but its substantive implementation remains flawed", says the European Parliament in its second report on women's role in social, economic and political life in Turkey. The report emphasises that respecting human rights, including women’s rights, is a condition sine qua non for Turkey's membership of the EU.

The own-initiative report by Emine Bozkurt (PES, NL) and adopted with 522 votes in favour, 15 against and 53 abstentions, which follows up Parliament's July 2005 resolution on women's role in Turkey, highlights key areas of concern. It welcomes the start of active EU accession negotiations with Turkey, but "regrets the slowing down of the reform process in Turkey over the last year and the persistent problem with women's rights" and reiterates Parliament's call for "full and effective implementation of the Community acquis in the field of women's rights, particularly in the poorer regions of the country".
Implementation of legislation
MEPs urge the Turkish Government to speed up implementation of the new legislation on women's rights so as to ensure that it is absolutely in line with the requirements of the Community acquis and that it is effectively implemented in practice.
Even though MEPs acknowledge that the new Penal Code (in force since 2005) substantially strengthens the basic rights of women, they also note with concern that (unsuccessful) attempts have been made to repeal legislation on women's rights. MEPs also deplore the fact that, in parts of south-east Turkey, girls are not registered at birth.  MEPs note that this hampers the fight against forced marriage and "crimes in the name of honour", since the victims have no official identity, and they urge the Turkish authorities to continue taking all necessary measures to ensure that all Turkish children are registered at birth.
Availability of data
MEPs note that there is still a lack of accurate data on the situation of women in Turkey and that existing data do not yet cover all problems relating to the situation, role and rights of women.  In that respect they welcome the initiative launched at the beginning of 2007 by the Turkish State Institute of Statistics to provide 'gender statistics' relating to social, cultural and economic life, including data on the gender pay gap.
Tackle violence against women
The report condemns "instances of violence against women, including honour killings, domestic violence, forced marriage and polygamy".  It calls on the Turkish Government and the Commission to tackle "violence in general and honour crime in particular" as a priority and to set up special high-security shelters. The report also "stresses the importance of systematic investigation and effective punishment" and therefore the training of police and judicial authorities in gender equality issues and the fight against violence.  MEPs call on Turkish institutions to build alliances with all groupings - civil, social or religious in society so as to initiate awareness-raising campaigns against violence against women and children.
Women in politics
The report notes that the political participation by women in Turkey is too low and that there is an absolute need for female role models in positions of power and decision-making. MEPs point out that discrimination against women can sometimes best be remedied by temporary positive discrimination measures.  MEPs also urge the political parties in Turkey, starting from the upcoming elections in 2007, to include more female candidates on election lists.
Gender equality in access to education and labour market
Parliament expresses concern about the Commission's observation that women remain vulnerable to discriminatory practices in Turkey, due inter alia to a lack of education and a high illiteracy rate.  UNICEF estimates that each year between 600,000 and 800,000 girls are either prevented by their families from going to school or do not attend it because of logistical difficulties.  MEPs therefore call on the Turkish government to ensure gender equality in access to education and the labour market, especially in the south-eastern regions. The female employment rate in Turkey is just under 25%, compared to the average women's employment rate in EU-25 of 55%.
Lastly, MEPs note that they intend to evaluate the progress in the field of women's rights in Turkey on a regular basis in addition to the yearly progress report of the Commission.
REF.: 20070208IPR02887