A democratic, culturally diverse, parliamentary republic founded in 1923, Turkey is home to some 77 million people. Turkey is an emerging market, upper middle income economy, and is ranked among the world’s top 20 economies.
Strategically located, with access to the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Seas, Turkey is a member of the UN, NATO, the OECD and the G-20, and is a candidate country for EU accession.
When the Turkish Republic was founded in 1923, it enacted important legal reforms to ensure equality between women and men in political and civil rights. During the 1980s, a strong women’s movement raised public awareness of violations of women’s rights, especially violence against women.
Turkey ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1985. In the 1990s, gender equality improved in public institutions, universities and civil society.
Laws were passed to eliminate discrimination against women in the 1990s, and a law to protect survivors of domestic violence was enacted in 1998. Starting in 2000, Turkey updated its fundamental laws with respect to gender equality (Constitutional Amendments of 2001, 2004 and 2010, and adoption of a new Civil Code in 2001 and a new Penal Code 2004).
The first country to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence and Domestic Violence against Women in 2011, Turkey has passed, in line with its obligations under the Convention, major legislative changes to prevent violence against women.
However, Turkey lags in implementing its national and international gender equality commitments. Women in Turkey continue to face challenges, with gender-based violence a major concern.
Turkey’s gender gap overall places it 125th of 142 countries, according to the 2014 Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum. It ranks 105th in educational attainment, 113th in political empowerment, and 132nd in economic participation and opportunity. Turkish women’s labour force participation rate is 32 per cent, compared to 76 per cent for men, and women’s estimated earned income is only 39 per cent of Turkish men’s.
Economic freedom and violence against women top Turkey’s women’s issues, according to a survey released by the Turkish daily Hürriyet on 8 March 2015 to mark International Women’s Day. Only 37. 2 per cent of women surveyed have a personal bank account and 23 per cent of women said they’d been victims of violence by their husband at least once. The 2014 National Domestic Violence Survey by the General Directorate on the Status of Women found that 37.5 per cent of married women surveyed had been physically or sexually abused at least once.
Across Turkey, women are under-represented in decision-making, particularly at the political level where their representation remains below international benchmarks.
After the June 2015 general elections, women made up 17.8 per cent of representatives elected to the Turkish Grand National Assembly. However, after the Early Elections of November 2015, the percentage of women fell to 14.7– a figure well below the global average of 22 per cent and the 30 per cent target set by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 1995. This rapid and major change between two elections prove the importance of temporary special measures for Turkey.
Active in Turkey since it set up its Programme Presence in 2012, UN Women works closely with the Government and civil society to promote gender equality and empower women by focusing on initiatives and work in:
UN Women works to increase women’s leadership and participation within business and private sector in Turkey through advocating Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), a joint initiative of the UN Global Compact and UN Women. WEPs support signatory companies in reviewing existing policies and practices—or establishing new ones—in order to realize women’s empowerment. UN Women is also working with Unilever Turkey for developing a joint programme, which will target young women at the age of 18-27, aiming to increase young women’s economic empowerment in Turkey.
In Turkey, UN Women launched its global solidarity movement, HeforShe with the support of Koc Holding. The national campaign aims to start a movement to support gender equality and women’s empowerment in all spheres of life and calls men and boys to become agents of change for full equality between men and women for the benefit of the whole society.