Engendering Democracy in Turkey?

Tuesday, 17 February 2015, 4:00pm - 5:30pm, IWM library
In analyzing women’s roles in democratization processes, the gender and transition literature focuses on women’s mobilization before and during the transition to a democratic regime. When it comes to the post-transitional phase; i.e. the consolidation of democracy, the literature shifts its focus on the participation of women in formal political institutions to see if the goals of women’s activism have been translated into women-friendly policies in the newly democratized regime. Although the participation of women in the formal political arena is important for influencing the laws, regulations and policies regarding women’s rights and gender equality, substantial changes in the women’s rights regime depend also on the vitality of women’s civil society organizations (CSOs). Women’s CSOs can monitor the state’s policies on women, point to shortcomings in laws, pressure for gender-sensitive institutional changes and continue to raise public awareness about women’s human rights.

Based on empirical data on women’s CSOs in Turkey, my study examined what role women’s CSOs played in engendering Turkish democracy under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP). To this end, the study investigated to what extent women’s CSOs participated in decision-making processes regarding gender policies in three specific issue areas: violence against women, women’s rights and discrimination against women, and analyzed what the impact of women’s CSOs on those policies was. In doing so, my study analyzed the activities of four groups of women’s CSOs in Turkey: feminist, Kurdish, Islamist and Kemalist women’s CSOs. Drawing on these findings, the study critically discussed the role of women’s CSOs in the democratic consolidation process in Turkey under the AKP. It concluded that increased civic and political participation of organized women engenders Turkish democracy.

Huercan Asli Aksoy is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Tübingen and a Junior Visiting Fellow at the IWM.