Since the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, Turkey has been committed to democratic civil society. Although this process has been interrupted many times by coup d'etats during the republic's history, one can argue that there is now a flourishing civil society with civil institutions and different cultural values. In this process, I wi!! assess the role of women as one of some importance. Their active participation in the society could play a crucial role for the required social transformation.
I shall argue that, the State has provided the legal ground for women to exercise their citizenship rights by the adaptation of the 1926 Turkish Civil Code. However, the status of Turkish women as citizens is determined by different social conditions within society. The patriarchal character of the Civil Code, the traditional family roles in the private sphere, combined with the underdeveloped social welfare system limits women from becoming active citizens of Turkish society. Particularly, the strong division between the private and public sphere, supported by religious ideologies, is one of the main problems of women's status in society, which is raised by feminist writes in Turkey(Arat: 1996; Kandiyoti: 1989)
Under these circumstances, women's participation in the labour force (the characteristics of the female labour force and the conditions of women in the labour markets) is an important issue for possible analyses in order to understand the problematic public/private division. At this point, the possible questions that can be asked are. Do women exercise their citizenship rights better if they move to the public domain (participate in the labour force where their status is justified by their paid labour)? Or do they have to justify their position in the public sphere in order to be considered hill citizens? (The second question is asked constantly by Western European feminist writers).
Focusing on these questions in the Turkish context, our
theoretical framework will be the strong male bread-winner model which
has taken the public-private separation for granted and accepted a patriarchal
construction of citizenship' (Pateman, 1988). In this work, the feminist
perspective, especially the Western feminist perspective will be my point
of view as their criticism raises the question of the public-private separation
and limited citizenship of women.
Turkish Women and Citizenship
The Male Breadwinner Model
During the industrialisation period, the class division has been the main theme of the social analyses and the State-citizen relations were developed around this topic. In this context, the public sphere is considered to be the place where the social, political and economic rights are exercised as Marshall puts it; "citizenship which can be defined as the meaning of membership in a particular community - has three aspects: civil, political and social comprising both entitlements and obligations... "(Bubeck, 1995) Through analyses of this linear relationship of the State and the citizen citizenship is defined in the public sphere, where the citizen's presence is justified by his paid labour.
This approach which highlights the class dynamics as the main patterns of inequality in modern societies has been strongly criticised by the feminist writers who have emphasised the relationship of the State, family and the market (Sainsbury, 1994). The feminists have underlined the public-private dichotomy. They have argued that this dichotomy which depends on traditional sexual division of labour at home supports the patriarchy in the society (Pateman, 1988). The State models which have taken the sexual division of labour for granted are the supporters of this dichotomy and through their social welfare systems, they sustain a particular kind of family with a male bread winner and women welfare creator (Daly, 1994). Therefore, including the family in the analysis, the male breadwinner model is developed.
Under this model, familial ideology supports marriage
and strict division of labour between husband and the wife. The husband
is the head of the household and his main task is to earn money through
hill employment in the market whereas, the wife's task is to provide care
for the husband and children (Sainshury, 1994). Therefore, the legal system
is established according to this familial ideology, as Sainsbury summarises;
"The unit of benefit is the family, and minimum benefits and pay embody
the notion of the family wage. Entitlement is differentiated between husband
and wife. Eligibility is based on breadwinner status and the principle
of maintenance. Accordingly, most wives' rights to benefit are derived
from their status as dependents within the family and their husbands' entitlement.
The family or household is the unit of social insurance contributions and
taxation."(Sainsbury, 1994) This familial ideology also affects the labour
market policies of the State where policies are oriented towards male breadwinners,
and caring work is considered to be unpaid labour in the private sphere
The Turkish State and the Male Breadwinner Model
I shall argue that the relationship between State and women in Turkey can be examined under the strong male breadwinner model as the Civil Code acknowledges the traditional sexual division in the private sphere.
With the establishment of the secular Turkish Republic,
the Islamic Code1 was abolished and Turkish Civil Code was adopted from
the Swiss Code in 1926. Establishment of the Civil Code was part of a modernisation
process initiated by Kemal Atatürk. The Civil Code's emancipatory influence
has fitted with Atatürk's concept of civilisation and republican notion
of citizenship (Kandiyoti, 1991). The new law was almost identical to the
Swiss Code with only some slight changes. Compared to Shariah law, the
Civil Code2 provided the legal ground for Turkish women to exercise their
citizenship rights. The code with its civil character has helped to strengthen
the women's position in the society and at home (Unat, 1986).
However, the Civil Code like its Swiss prototype (which was amended in 1984) sustained a patriarchal State by recognising the husband as the head of the household, and the wife the dependent welfare creator. The family law States that:
The husband is the head of the family and responsible for supporting the family and the wife is the home-maker. The husband has the legal standing to represent the family only by continuing needs of the family.
In addition, the Code States that a woman's place of residence
is her husband's place of residence and women carries her husband's surname.
According to the Article 154 of the Turkish Civil Code, the husband represents
the conjugal unity.
The Islamic Code is based on Shariab. The Shariah assumes that women are naturally dependent on men. As they are not men's equals they need the protection of men. Laws regulating marriage and family life allow polygamy; a man is legally entitled to four wives as long as he could marry them and treat them all fairly. Men have the exclusive right to dissolve marriages. The institution of one sided divorce by men allows the husband to repudiate his wife even when she has not breached the marriage contract.(Arat. 1989)
Polygamy was outlawed and marriage partners were given
equal rights to divorce and child custody.
Women were granted the vote at local elections in 1930 aid at the national level in 1934.(Kandiyoti,199 1)
The division of material possession appears to provide equality between the spouses. However, it does not consider the unpaid labour of the women in the private sphere. The concentration of goods gained with the husband at marriage may put the women in a disadvantaged position in case of divorce or death of the spouse (DGSPW Report, 1994).
Although Turkish citizens are equal under citizenship law, in terms of inter cultural marriages there are discriminatory provisions. Thus while a foreign woman married to a Turkish citizen is automatically granted Turkish citizenship, the same right is not granted to foreign men married to Turkish women (DGSPW, ] 994).
Through this legal framework, the Turkish State has sustained the strong male breadwinner model. Although on the surface, the women are recognised as full citizens of the Turkish Republic, the strict division of labour between public and private sphere is supported by the State and women are not freed from the patriarchal construction of the traditional Turkish society as Arat (1994) puts it "The State had traditionally protected, legitimised and helped to perpetuate patriarchal organisations in society including the family, economy and the education system.
In addition, the weaknesses of the social provisions has
pushed the State to assume women as care takers and welfare creators in
the private sphere (Kandiyoti, 1995). In terms of social security we cannot
talk about a direct discrimination, however overall shortcomings of the
system indirectly affect women (this issue will be explored in the next
This model clearly identifies gender inequality within the legal framework of the State, which has taken sexual division of labour for granted and considered the paid labour of women as a secondary source of income.
Patriarchal Citizenship and Public-Private Dichotomy
I shall argue that at the heart of this argument stands the concept of citizenship. Particularly, in countries where the strong male breadwinner model is dominant, women's status is determined by their status in the private sphere and this is the main reason of their exclusion from the public sphere where full citizenship is provided to the largely male working class, whose status is justified by their labour. Therefore, the construction of citizenship is patriarchal (Pateman, 1988).
The feminist critique draws parallels with the dependence of women created in the private context and their capacity to exercise their citizenship rights. The unpaid labour which is the main cause of dependence precludes women to become full citizens since it holds back women to become part of the active labour force and certain political activities and it prevents women from entitlement to certain contributory social benefits (Lister, 1995). Therefore, the women's significant dependence on the family in the strong male breadwinner model is the basic burden confronting the exploitation of their citizenship rights.
Turkey with its strong male bread-winner model and patriarchal
society provides us with an extreme case of the division between private
and public sphere which voiced by Turkish feminists (Sirmans l989; Arat:1994;
Tekeli.1995). And in fact, Western feminism has had an impact on the Turkish
feminist movement. (Sirman, 1989)
The 1980s Feminist Movement and Criticism of the Patriarchal Citizenship in Turkey
The 1980s is an important phase in the Republic's history as the army intervened in politics. While the 1982 Constitution tried to limit the boundaries of civil activities, the army returned power to civilians in 1983 and civil society started to expand its boundaries. Through these years with the liberalisation policies, liberalism and individualism flourished as the new values of the urban population, mainly among the urban elite. Also, in these years a feminist movement appeared in Turkey which has played an important role in the re-democratisation process (Arat,1994). Interestingly, the Islamic movement has appeared in the same period.
The Civil Code which had been established by the male reformers of the young Republic (and had been retained in the same form for more than 50 years) has been criticised by the Turkish feminists who represent the demands of a changing society. The Turkish feminists who have a similar discourse with their West European counterparts have underlined the patriarchal character of the Civil Code (Sirman, 1994). They have highlighted the public-private dichotomy and patriarchal concept of citizenship. The dominant discourse of feminism in Turkey stressed the maternal roles of women and sexual division of labour at home, which prevents women from becoming active citizens of their society. They argued that the laws, which accept this division, sustain the women's position as care taker in the private sphere. The women's status as wives and mothers at home are prior to their status as citizens of a civil society. Therefore, emphasising the State's role in the private sphere, the feminists have started a campaign against violence at home. The aim has been to bring women's special problems to the public sphere. As Arat (1994) puts it; the claim was made that the personal was political; the State has to respect women's private life and choices at the same time as guarantee protection to women in the public realm where they are most exploited.
In addition, the economic changes in the 1980s with liberal
economic development models increased poverty and made the woman's contribution
to household earning a necessity (Kandiyoti, 1995). Consequently, women's
contribution to the labour market has become inevitable. Will this process
help women to overcome the public/private dichotomy? It depends heavily
on the characteristics of female labour markets and their position in the
labour markets. The women's position in the labour markets in Turkey demonstrates
that the public-private dichotomy is the major problem of women citizens.
The next chapter will seek to find an answer to the worker/citizen relationship
in the Turkish context.
Turkish Women and Work
Within the framework of the feminist debate on public-private dichotomy and women's dependence, this section concentrates on Turkish women's relation with paid and unpaid work. As women's independence (which is considered to be the main requirement to becoming a full citizen) is associated with their conditional position in the labour markets, their relation with unpaid work is important in understanding their status as full citizens as Brubeck (1995) States;
Men's work and income patterns are determined by their status in the labour market, whilst women's work and income patterns are determined by their responsibility in the private sphere.
In a changing society like Turkey, in order to understand
women's 'conditional' position in the labour markets and their relation
to their paid and unpaid work, one should consider three issues; i) the
process of socio-economic change in the society, particularly, different
social groups appearing in the urban settings as a consequence of urbanisation;
ii) the patriarchal family and strict sexual division of labour (which
is dissolving but still an important indicator) and iii) women's treatment
under labour law and the social security system. The coming together of
the above factors modifies women's participation in the labour force and
explains women's disadvantaged position in the formal and service labour
One of the major transformations that Turkey has experienced in the second half of the decade is the urbanisation process, which has taken pace after the 1950s. From 1950 to 1985, the percentage of the urban population has increased from 25% to 53%. According to the 1990 General Census of Population, 57,7% of females and 60,3% of males live in the cities.(Women in Statistics 1927-1992)
By the process of migration from rural to urban areas, Turkish society has entered a phase of social change which has led to the blooming of new values in society. In the 1990s, Turkish society represents a cultural mosaic where elements of Mediterranean culture, of Islamic culture (including the various Sunnite/Alevi interpretations), of secular Western culture, of atheistic socialism and various regional cultures, are interacting with each other to create an extremely rich and complex whole (Tekeli,1995).
In this cultural richness or complexity, the urbanisation process accompanied by socio-economic changes has created new social structures in society. Some of Turkey's emerging social patterns can be described as; traditional rural; changing rural; small town; newly urbanised-squatter (gecekondu); the urban middle class (professionally employed or housewives) (Unat, 1986). These different socio-economic groups contribute to the creation of different characteristics of the female labour force in the urban realm.
Women's conditional position in the labour markets is
highly dependent on their socio-economic status (Ecevit,1994). In this
respect, the socio-economic changes which have an impact on the status
of women play an important role in the improvement of women's status in
the society as Unat(1986) puts it:
Increased awareness, commitment, and involvement in politics and autonomy in political action and behaviour are not instilled by persuasive means; but rather, they emerge from such deep-seated changes in the social structure as internal, and external migration, urbanisation and industrialisation.
Within this framework, if we focus on the structure of the urban population more closely; two groups can be used to characterise the urban female labour force in Turkey; women in newly urbanised settings (squatters) and urban middle class women (housewives and employed people)
Women in squats belong to families who migrate to urban areas from rural settings. Usually, they are economically disadvantaged groups facing the harsh conditions of modernisation and rapid economic development. They lack the necessary education to get into the skilled labour markets in the city and they become an unskilled labour force in the factories or they join the service sector. Women in these settings are one of the most problematic social groups trapped between modern and traditional values. According to Unat (1986) although women living in squats face difficulties adapting to city life, they are the dynamic innovators in the modernisation process of women.
Another important group of people living in the urban areas are classified as housewives (economically inactive groups). These women come from either rural or urban backgrounds. Many of these women with a rural background were previously unpaid family workers in the rural settings. When they move to cities, they give up working due to a lack of sufficient qualifications. In the urban settings they become economically inactive. The housewife's status in society is strictly defined by their unpaid labour at home. Their economic dependence excludes them from the public realm where citizenship is defined. Therefore, these women face the difficulties of the private/public dichotomy. The percentage of women classified as housewives (classified as persons not in labour force but available for work) is 48% (Household labour force survey,1994).
Another interesting group of women living in urban areas
is the professional working class. These women usually come from middle
class urban families with access to education. They are mainly the skilled
labour force and the most privileged group of women in the urban settings.
These women with a high level of education3 and professional skills are
more likely to find jobs in the skilled labour market. By 1994, the labour
force participation rate of university graduate women is 80.3%. (This number
for the male graduates is 91,9%) (Household Labour Force Survey, 1994).
These professional women's relation to unpaid work is not as problematic
as the housewives and women living in squats. Although, one can not argue
about a share of work at home, the extended family relations, and cheap
domestic work provided by unskilled women helps these women to gain independence
from their unpaid work in the private sphere (Ozbay, 1994). Therefore,
they are the group who can move to the public sphere more easily. Their
economic independence is the key element in this respect.
The universal attainment rate of the women is not very encouraging; According to the 1994, Household survev out of 6242 thousand women (between age 12-24 years old) 84 thousand women are going for higher education. (Household Survey, 1994)
Socioeconomic Change, Family and Women
One can argue that with the influence of socio-economic changes in society, the patriarchal family structure has started to dissolve. Particularly, among the families with a rural background who live in the urban squats, we can observe this erosion. (Yazan, 1993) However, again women's contribution to labour markets is an important determinant of the dissolution of the image of the traditional male breadwinner and decision maker as Arat (1989) argues:
It is doubtful that a non-hierarchal power balance can be maintained within a family where the wife has limited access to the public realm and has significant economic and political power.
The working class women who gain their economic independence
in these settings improve their status in the family and contribute more
to the decision making process. Kandiyoti argues that although the women's
contribution to the labour markets are disadvantaged in these settings,
it is important in terms of their improving status in the family (Kandiyoti,1995).
Their economic independence gives them power to renegotiate the strict
sexual division of labour (Bolak, 1995).
However, some research shows that although these women's position in the private sphere improves with their economic independence, their relation to unpaid labour does not change. (Ozbay, 1994) While they are working outside, they are still occupied with the domestic work at home. Besides, the dissolution in the Turkish family structure is very symbolic, the family is still a strong institution of society. In 1990, the general divorce rate for both men and women was 2.1% (Women in Statistics,1995). We cannot argue that the structure of the family is affected strongly by socio-economic changes (Yazan, 1993)
Social Security Laws and Women
As our model demonstrates, a State with a strong male breadwinner model orients employment policies towards men. As a consequence of this, discriminatory employment and social provisions take place in the legal framework, In this respect, Turkish legislation, which refers to women as dependent welfare creators under family law, has discriminatory provisions in its labour and social security laws. In fact, it is full of contradictions; certain provisions address equality with a rather narrow prospect and some discriminate between sexes either directly or indirectly.
Equality between the sexes Is guaranteed in the Turkish Constitution by Article 10; "Everyone is equal before the law, irrespective of language, race, colour, sex, political belief, philosophical thought, religion, sect or other differences"(Report, 1993).
Besides this general article, Article 70 States that
All Turkish citizens have the right to be employed by
public organisations. No discriminations, other than the qualifications
required for the work, can be made in employment..."
Treatment of Women under the Labour Law
The major shortcoming of the labour legislation is its
limited coverage. The agricultural labour force and service sector workers
are not covered by the legislation. In this respect, the shortcomings of
labour legislation does not provide a protection for a wide range of women
workers in the agricultural and service sectors.
The equal pay article with a narrow prospect pursues equality in terms of wages. Hence, the provision "Equal pay for equal work" which is incorporated in Article 26, paragraph 3 of the labour law declares that
Different wages can not be paid to male and female workers
solely because of their sex, if they are working in the same organisation
with the same qualifications and equal productivity. Provisions contrary
to this clause can not be included in the collective bargaining agreements
and/or employment contracts.
The redundancy law which is designed to protect workers
acts as an incentive for women to quit in order to create vacancies for
Those parts of the Constitution which apply specifically to females are full of contradictions. Although the reproductive and maternal functions of women workers are protected by the labour law, there are articles which provide grounds for employers to make discrimination against women employees.
Article 70 of the labour law States that women are entitled to a paid maternity leave of six weeks before and six weeks after confinement. These periods can be increased depending on the nature of the job and the health of the worker as Stated in a medical report. Article 3 guarantees women workers entitlement of unpaid leave up to 6 months after maternity leave, which is not taken into consideration in the calculation of paid annual leave.
Article 4 of the labour law States that the worker, upon request, is entitled to a leave of absence from work as necessary for medical examinations during the first three months of pregnancy and once a month thereafter.
However, Article 17/lb of the same labour law States that
an employer can lay off a woman because of her pregnancy or confinement,
which is a serious discrimination derived from the maternal functions of
Yet, paradoxically, according to the labour law, employers are obliged to provide child-care facilities (Article 6). Article 7 obliges the employer to establish nursing rooms if he employs 100-150 women, the same law obliges the employer employing more than 150 workers to set up a nursing room and a creche for the children of women workers 0-6 years of age.
In addition, in labour laws, women are prohibited from
working in certain areas. For instance, Article 68 of the labour law prohibits
women working in underground and underwater jobs. Article 69 prohibits
women from doing night work in industry. Article 4 States that women can
be excused from the performance of heavy and dangerous works during their
menstruation periods regarded as a period of five days, which begins with
notification by the woman worker.
Social Security and Women
The problem of the Social Security System is its disorganised character and its limited coverage. It does not cover the whole working population. There are three social security schemes in Turkey; SSK, which covers all employees with a worker status; Emekli Sandiği covers all government employees and persons of civil servant status; Bağ Kur, which covers the self-employed and independent professionals. In addition, any woman who has paid social insurance premiums for a minimum of 5 years and is 50 years of age is entitled to retirement (DGSW, Report, 1994). Since 1976, women with the status of housewife have been entitled to obtain voluntary insurance under this system.
The Social Security System aims to maintain equality between the sexes and tries to integrate those women whose position is mainly defined in the private sphere. For instance, according to the civil servants' law, No:657, social security provisions for sickness and maternity are provided by the employer as Article ~ 88 States:
The employer is responsible for social security of the civil servant pertaining and sickness, maternity and vocational disability resulting from on-the job accidents, and also to the health insurance for the spouse, parents and children under age in case of sickness and maternity.
The same law also States that a family allowance shall definitely be paid to the spouse of the civil servant who is not working for money and also to each of the children in the same situation.
However there are serious shortcomings of the social insurance schemes in Turkey. The major problem of the system is its low coverage as we mentioned before, and the representation of the women among the social security beneficiaries is quite low as result of low participation rate in employment. In 1995, the number of regular employees was 6.537.000; 5.305.000 of them were men. For the same year, the number of employees covered by social insurance institutions was 4.410.744; of which 4.049.176 were men and 361.508 of them were women (Statistical Yearbook of Turkey, 1996).
The Social Security Law also provides a voluntary social security system for independent and self-employed agricultural workers. Although according to this law, men and women over the age of 22 can benefit from the social security provisions, women agricultural workers are excluded from the system. Because, women are not head of their households, their work is regarded as unpaid family labour (DGSPW Report,1994). Again, this law leaves an open door for women family labourers, by claiming that unpaid family workers over the age of 18 may subscribe to the social security system.
In addition, women are part of active labour force in
the service sector, which. They work on an irregular basis. Most of them
are not aware of their social security rights. Prostitutes are not entitled
to social insurance schemes either.
Patterns of Female Labour Markets
The trends in the female labour markets in Turkey show similar patterns to the development process of the other OECD countries, particularly, with Southern European countries which have experienced late industrialisation and export-led economic growth patterns (World Bank,1993). In these countries, the changes in the economic structure, increased urbanisation and educational attainment, accompanied by the EC gender equality directives have led to an increase in the female participation to the labour markets which had been falling until the 1970s and 1980s.
Today, Turkey is experiencing a decline in women's participation in the labour force. This demonstrates a U-shaped relationship between industrialisation and the female participation rate which has been observed in most OECD countries (World Bank, 1993) The transformation from an agricultural to a market economy, and migration from rural to urban areas are the main reasons for the decline of women's participation in the labour force (Ozbay, 1994). Today Turkey is the only OECD country whose female participation to the labour force is the lowest.
The female labour force participation has experienced
a sharp decline since 1950. The participation rate, which was around 70%
in 1955, has decreased to 33% in 1990. Since 1980, women's participation
to the urban labour force however has witnessed an increase. Until 1980,
the number of women working in the industrial sector decreased, but the
figure has increased steadily since then. The same is true for the service
sector. Although it is declining, the agricultural sector still absorbs
the highest number of women to its labour force
In Turkey, the industrial sector remains a major employer of the labour force. From 1950 to 1990, the female labour force in the industrial sector has grown by 50% (World Bank Report, 1993). On the other hand men's participation in this sector has doubled. The industrial sector in Turkey has four subsections; manufacturing, mining, quarrying, construction and gas and electricity. Women are mainly concentrated in the manufacturing sector.
One can argue that segregation is highly evident in the labour markets in Turkey. There is both sectoral and occupational segregation. Women are concentrated mostly in the low-paying manufacturing industries. This is due to the fact that the unskilled female labour force has been seen as a source of cheap labour. Particularly, with the export-led growth strategies, the industries, which are export-oriented, favour women workers. The textile industry is a typical example of this (Kazgan,1981).
This occupational segregation is also visible in professional jobs in the manufacturing sector. The growth of female employment in the manufacturing sector is concentrated in the scientific, technical and professional areas, whereas, for men, the growth is focussed on the administrative managerial and service sectors. More than 30% of men are in white collar occupations whereas, this percentage for women is 18% (Ozbay, 1995).
The educational level of women, industrial stagnation and the male breadwinner ideology are the three main indicators, which determine women's position in the industrial sectors.
First of all, a low level of education puts women in a vulnerable position in the industrial sector. Due to their unskilled labour, they are often the first group to be fired during industrial stagnation (Ecevit, 1995). Another important reason for this vulnerability derives from the patriarchal character of society. As women's labour is seen as secondary to their domestic tasks, during the crisis of certain sectors, the demand for women's labour decreases compared to that of men (Gomas, 1987). For instance, between the years 1980-1988, the number of women workers in the tobacco industry decreased by 20% as a direct result of a decrease in domestic production due to importation of tobacco products Ecevit, 1988).
Research carried out over the recent years confirms that the characteristics of the female labour force in the industrial sector especially their segregated position and wage-differences can be explained by the social construction of the society as well as the economic conditions (Ecevit,1994). Again women's status in the private sphere determines their roles in the public sphere. Particularly, their position at home is seen as their primary role in the society and their wage is recognised as a secondary source for the family as Gumus (1987) argues.
Defined first and foremost as wives and mothers, women's dependency status accords them a subordinate role in the labour market.
Ecevit argues that also for employers, it is useful to
recognise women as dependent figures in the private sphere and accept their
wage as secondary in order to justify the continuation of the low wages
Women and the Service Sector
One of the most striking features of the female labour force in urban areas is the service sector. Some research carried out in slum areas demonstrates that a large proportion of women living in these areas are active in service markets (Ozbay: 1994; Ozar: 1995; Qinar, 1994).
Slow industrialisation compared to rapid urbanisation is one of the main causes of the emergence of the service sector in urban areas due to the low capacity of labour markets to absorb the new labour force. In this process, women's contribution to the labour markets becomes more difficult as their education level is lower than the men, and the male breadwinner has the priority in the labour market.
However, the economic conditions in urban areas have pushed
women towards the service labour markets. The characteristics of the female
labour force in the service sector demonstrates how the public/private
division helps the capitalist market to use the cheap labour of women.
In the urban setting women tend to work in sectors such as raising and
tending small farm animals, keeping small garden patches with the intention
to sell produce, cooking and preparing other goods that are sold by their
husbands on the streets, working in small family workshops or helping their
self-employed husbands in their shops (Gumus,1994). The above activities
classified as home working, are mainly done by women.
Alongside economic reasons, social constraints are important in understanding women's position as home workers. One of the reason that these women choose to work at home is their husband's approach to their wife's work in the private sphere. Cinar's research carried out among women who are home workers around Istanbul confirms this argument (Cinar, 1994). When women were asked why they work at home, the answer most of the time was that their husbands preferred it. The reason given by husbands for this preference was the potential risk of sexual harassment (Cinar, 1994). Cinar's research also shows that employers prefer to employ women in the private sphere as they avoid paying for social security benefits.
Another dimension of the issue is that many of these women do not consider themselves as workers. In many household surveys, these women are categorised as housewives. They are considered as an economically inactive category. For many of these household surveys, the men usually answer the questions, and do not declare that their wives are working due to the fear of taxation (Ozar, 1994). Although such declaration State these women are economically inactive, certain studies show that the women categorised as housewives are an economically active group whose earning is important for the household.
Özbay's 1982 survey conducted in Ereğli confirms that women are eager to say that they are working if it is in the formal sector. Ozbay comes up with several questions. The first question is whether they work for money or not. Only 10.8% of the women who participated answered yes. But when she asked a second question to women who claim that they did not work if they earned money by doing something. 15.3% of the female population answered yes. The work that they were engaged in included knitting, selling vegetables; 3.5%of the women helped their husband regularly, and 7.9% less regularly. The study confirmed that in actuality almost half of the female population of the town of Eregli were working (Ozbay,1994).
Social and economic factors overlap in explaining women's position in the service sector, particularly, in home-working. Trends demonstrate that women's employment will grow in the service sector in the future as Ecevit (1988) observes:
Women's relationship with service sector activities in urban areas will no longer be temporary, but are in the process of becoming a permanent, institutional structure.
This statement forces us again to question women's position
in the private and public sphere. In the Turkish case, women's participation
in the labour markets is a continuation of their domestic roles at home
which means their status in the society will still be defined by their
status at home. This would lead us to focus on the second question that
we raised at the beginning; do women have to move to the public sphere
to participate fully in society? This discussion forces us to question
the state-family and market relations. The State plays an important role
in breaking the chains of patriarchy. By accepting the strong male breadwinner
model, the Turkish State takes women's position in the private sphere for
granted. The economic changes in the society, which brings social changes
needs policy implications to improve the conditions of women in order to
make them active citizens.
The State and Turkish women
Women's relation to paid and unpaid labour demonstrates that in a transitional society like Turkey, this relation becomes more complex due to certain circumstances such as the level of economic development, urbanisation and level of education. Turkish society is an example of a transitional society where both traditional and modern elements coexist within the same entity. In this complex setting, women, particularly the ones living in urban areas are caught up between different dynamics of a changing society. They are the first group who are adversely influenced by socio-economic changes, economic instabilities, but in addition have important contributors to make to the development process. If Turkey aims to achieve a sustainable economic development backed by a democratic civil society, women's position as citizens should be guaranteed and strengthened. However in a male dominant society, where state policies, family formations and capitalist markets are in favour of patriarchy, women face serious challenges to overcome the present difficulties.
In this set of complex relations, the state's policies oriented towards women are important determinants of improvement of women's position in society as citizens. In today's circumstances, the Turkish state's approach to women represents the contradictions those Turkey experiences more deeply each day. The public-private dichotomy raised in this work takes a new shape with the major dichotomy that Turkish society is experiencing today; modern versus traditional, secular versus fundamentalist. In this atmosphere, women's position in the private sphere where traditional values are dominant is supported by the conservative groups whereas, women's position in the public sphere, (as workers, as active citizens, as policy makers) is supported by the secular forces in the state.
Two state institutions established in the 1990s display
these so-called contradictions: The Directorate General for the Status
and Problems of Women and the Family Research Institute are both generating
policies oriented towards women, whilst the Directorate General on the
Status and Problems of Women (DGWSP) functions as a unit affiliated to
the Prime Minister's office. The main goals of the Directorate are to improve
the educational level of Turkish women, increasing their employment in
productive sectors, and thereby strengthen their economic independence,
ensure their legal, health and social rights (including social insurance)
promote the equality of women in social, economic, cultural and political
Another state institution promoting policies towards women is the Family Research Institute, which was founded in 1989. The aim of the Institute is to ensure the formation of a national family policy and to carry out research and take the necessary measures for the conservation of the unity of the family, and for the improvement of social welfare (Report by DGWSP).
The presence of these two bodies forces us to ask the question: does the state see women as mothers or workers? Again we face the contradiction of the Turkish state's approach to women. On the one hand, DOWS pushes policies oriented towards the improvement of women's position in the public sphere through creating employment programs and through proposals for a legal change. However on the other hand, the Family Institute creates policies for the preservation of women's position at home. Hence, the report of the State Planning Institution on the Turkish Family Structure calls for the maintenance of traditional gender relations in the family and identifies policies achieving this goal (DPT,1989).
In accordance with this report, the Family Institute creates policies where the male breadwinner model is maintained and women's domestic activities are emphasised (Berik, 1990) Interestingly, the same report suggests the extension of the maternity leave period and the creation of rights of paternity leave. Maybe more interestingly the same report with a feminist discourse proposes changes in the Civil Code to broaden the legal rights of women in the private sphere in accordance with their changing economic status. (DPT, 1989)
The Family Institute's policies concerning the employment
of women are also oriented towards preserving women's position in the private
sphere. For instance, they have facilitated the arrangement of credits
by the Halk Bank to women who are involved in income-generating activities
at home (Berik, 1990). According to Cinar(1988) these kind of policies
have reinforced the home-working activities of the 1980s combined with
the export-led economic development policies.
These two state bodies as institutions have come to represent the secular-Islamist polarisation in Turkey. Today, the DGSW is run by the feminist groups in the Centre-Right Party and the Family Institute is run by the conservative groups within the Islamist party who are in coalition.
I can argue that the modem and traditional dichotomy in the Turkish society is one of the challenges facing women in their fight to become active citizens in the public sphere. In this environment every attempt to improve the conditions of the women in the public and private sphere exposes to these two forces in society.
In this atmosphere the determination for the elimination
of discrimination in the legal framework, labour markets and education
is important for women to overcome the private/public dichotomy and become
In a patriarchal society, all women are housewives, but some work... .(C)zbay,1994)
Today the outlook of Turkish society confirms the above statement. Patriarchy is inherent in the society deriving form religious and traditional forces. One can argue that socioeconomic changes are taking place, however, the effects of this process can not penetrate to all layers of society. Hence, the capitalist market creates new forms of patriarchy (Ecevit,1995).
The Turkish case demonstrates that the women who participate in the labour markets in a privileged position (professional women) gain their independence from their unpaid labour at home more easily. Their economic independence accompanied with the social networks in the Turkish society provides a position for them in the public sphere where citizenship is defined. However, this position may be denied to women of low socio-economic status. In this framework, women's relation to domestic work is the main determinant of their status in society. The private/ public dichotomy will continue to be the main difficulty for Turkish women to obtain a position as active citizens of the Turkish society. Even women's contribution to labour markets shows an increase in the service sector which is getting more institutionalised each day (Ecevit,1995). This would also institutionalise women's position in the private sphere.
Therefore, the state's role to overcome this problem again
resurfaces in terms of defining the social care at home and bringing it
to the public sphere efficiently. In order to establish this, the state's
relation to women has to be altered. The state's definition of women as
caretakers at home has to be abolished. These are all linked again to social
changes in society, which would force institutions such as the family and
the state to adapt to emerging conditions. For a country like Turkey, it
is hard to predict the future, as two forces of modernisation and anti
modernisation are growing at the same speed. In this complex environment,
the link between women's status as citizens and as worker is becoming more
complex depending on different diverse formations in society.
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