Translated from the Catlakzemin feminist website
In the 1980s feminism blossomed in Turkey. Subjects that were not discussed before, such as domestic violence, marital rape, and asking permission from husbands before getting a job, started to become part of the national conversation.
During the same period, state authorities started to talk about the situation of women in households and at work. They claimed that “when women work outside the house, this creates an increase in the number of divorce cases, and it is important to protect the family”.
On 29 December 1989 the Family Research Institution was established by decree laws, followed on 20 April 1990 by the Presidency on the Status and Problems of Women. These two institutions worked during that period with the support of Cemil Çiçek, Minister of State Responsible for Family.
Cemil Çiçek made statements such as “Dating is prostitution” and “Feminism is a perversion”. He helped to stir up great anger towards feminists in Turkey. The Family Research Institution conducted various studies to strengthen the Muslim-Turkish family “whose structure was disrupted by the work of women”.
It was not a coincidence that this opposition came during a period when feminism and women’s movements were rising up in Turkey. About 40 feminist women filed for divorce as a protest against these decrees, which they called “residence at home by state order.”
On 2 November 1990 they made a press statement in front of the Istanbul Courthouse and went to the 3rd Civil Court of First Instance together to petition for divorce.
“Now the state aims to create a strong family, as if laws protecting the interests of men are not enough”, stated the protestors together during the divorce act. “Does a strong family mean that the man is stronger than he is now and the woman is weaker? We don’t want laws that reinforce the slavery of women. As a result of today’s social conditions and developments, it is not possible to continue our marriage legally. Therefore, we demand a divorce”.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was the Welfare Party Istanbul Provincial Chairman during that period, characterised the divorce act of women as follows: “Thirty feminist women… They were married before… They want to have the freedom to bear children from anyone they want and whenever they want. So they filed for divorce. Be careful, I am warning everybody: they want to create a society that raises bastards”.