STATEMENT BY PROF. DR. AYŞE AKIN MEMBER OF THE DELEGATION OF TURKEY TO THE FIFTY-FIRST SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN INFORMAL THEMATIC DEBATE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON PROMOTION OF GENDER EQUALITY AND THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN

Ayşe Akın 07.03.2007
Madam President,
Distinguished Delegates,

At the outset, allow me to express our thanks for organizing this important debate which also coincides with the 51st session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Ensuring gender equality as an indispensable and integral component of human rights is a priority issue for Turkey. Since the Fourth World Conference held in Beijing in 1995, Turkey has intensified its efforts to provide the legal basis for gender equality. In this regard, I can recall the following legislative measures as the milestones of the ongoing reform process in Turkey:

-Adoption of the Law on the Protection of the Family (1998) which is aimed at preventing domestic violence.

-Adoption of the new Civil Code (2001) which abolished the supremacy of men in marriage, and thus established the full equality of women and men in the family. The new code also sets the equal division of property acquired during marriage as a default property regime, assigning an economic value to women's hitherto invisible labor for the well being of the family household.

- Adoption of the new Penal Code (2005) which includes more than thirty amendments concerning gender equality and protection of women's human rights, particularly sexual and bodily rights of women and girls in Turkey.

Madam President,
Distinguished Delegates,

Improvement of women's health is a real breakthrough in Turkey.

We legalized family planning in 1965. By revising this first law in 1983, reproductive rights of women "to decide freely for their fertility" was legally ensured. By this law we were able to prevent maternal mortalities due to illegally induced abortions.

After 1994 (ICPD) a national strategic plan on women's health was prepared and it was updated in 2005 where gender issues are integrated in the plan as a cross cutting issue.

Very recently, as a part of the WHO initiative launched in seven European countries including Turkey, we have analyzed five major legislations on reproductive health in terms of gender sensitivity. It was encouraging to find out that the laws enacted after 1980s are more gender sensitive.

Madam President,
Distinguished Delegates,

Beyond doubt, education is the key element in empowerment of women. In 1997, the duration of compulsory primary education Turkey was increased from five to eight years. Consequently, the percentage of girl students in the primary education has increased significantly. At the moment, Turkey is considering the transition to twelve years of compulsory education, which will be an essential tool to ensure girls' full participation in the secondary education.

In order to increase women's opportunities for employment, a "Strategic Plan for Women's Employment" is being prepared in line with the National Employment Strategy, which will be evaluated and revised in every two years. We are also undertaking significant efforts to encourage corporate social responsibility and partnerships between the public and private sectors to eliminate existing gender inequalities in the labor force. Furthermore, a draft law to enable paternal leave in addition to the maternal leave is prepared and sent to the parliament.

Turkish women acquired the right to vote and to run for elections in early 1930s. Since then Turkish women have held various high level portfolios such as the Prime Minister, Minister of State, Minister of the Interior, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Tourism and others. However, the participation of women in decision making unfortunately continues to be unsatisfactory. Turkey has been discussing various methods with a view to increasing the representation of women in decision making. Currently, political parties are encouraged to nominate women candidates. This year, general elections will be held in Turkey, and we expect a significant increase in the number of women representatives elected to the parliament.

Turkey is determined to ensure the realization of women's and girls' human rights and is looking forward to cooperate with the international community in all platforms to achieve gender equality.

Thank you.