TURKEY – 171 Women’s and LGBTI+ Organisations Call on Opposition Parties to Say No to the Amendment to the Constitution!

“We, the women and LGBTI+ organisations whose signatures are below, reject the proposed amendment to the Constitution, which is discriminatory and expressly against the principles of equality and secularism of the Constitution. We call on all opposition parties to oppose and say NO to this proposal.

“On 9 December 2022, AKP tabled a proposal, signed by 336 deputies including those of MHP and BBP, to amend two articles of the Constitution, article 24 titled “freedom of religion and conscience” and article 41 titled “protection of the family and the rights of the child”. The proposed amendment is explicitly discriminatory and against the spirit of the Constitution and universal norms of human rights. Furthermore, the proposal is unacceptable both as a constitution-making technique and in the way it is introduced to the public.

“Constitutions are inclusive, pluralist, founding and fundamental texts that build a society. A constitution provides the highest level of safeguard for rights and freedoms and is a guarantee that everyone fully and equally enjoys universal human rights that belong to them from birth. Therefore, democratic rule-of-law states that are respectful of human rights do not have constitutions that grant privileges to a certain person, group or community nor do their constitutions contain provisions that generate discrimination among citizens. As a requirement of a democratic, secular and social state which is based on rule of law and respectful of human rights, the Constitution of Turkey, in its article 10 titled “equality before the law” guarantees that “everyone is equal before the law” and that “state authorities are obliged to act in compliance with the principle of equality in all their proceedings”.

“Article 10 of the Constitution states that no one can be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, religion or sect and that “state organs and administrative authorities are obliged to act in compliance with the principle of equality in all their proceedings” and, they are in particular obliged to “ensure equality between women and men in the enjoyment of rights”. This point is expressly made in the justification of the proposed amendment to the article: The justification states that “women in our country, those who cover their heads or those who do not cover their heads, are able to enjoy all fundamental rights and freedoms as well as the goods and services provided by the public or private sector”, pointing out that “discriminatory practices against women who cover their heads and wear attire as part of their religious faith are against the Constitution”. Furthermore, according to article 9 titled “freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and article 14 on “prohibition of discrimination” of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a party, Turkey has the obligation to ensure that all its citizens have the freedom of thought, conscience and religion including the freedom to change their religion or faith, the freedom to worship and the freedom to manifest their religion or faith. In addition, Turkey is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which already imposes the obligation on Turkey to ensure that no woman shall be exposed to any “distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field”….

“The proposed amendment does not include a general freedom of religious symbols or attire used as part of a religious faith but refers to a specific sect of the Islamic religion and stipulates regulations on headscarf used only by women, as opposed to addressing everyone regardless of sex. In order to achieve the freedom of religion and faith, the state is obliged to keep an equal distance from all religions and faiths of its citizens. Nevertheless, the proposed regulation to article 24 describes the freedom of religion and conscience only from the point of a specific religious faith. The fact that the proposed paragraph references only the headscarves of women pave the way for state intervention in women’s appearances, which is an intervention made over women’s body, in an extremely narrow and discriminatory fashion that is in conflict with the principle of secularism….

“Women in Turkey experience discrimination and male violence both in public and private spaces because they are women, regardless of their religious faith or attire; they are subject to oppression by patriarchy and excluded from public life. While women are subject to male violence and discrimination just because they are women, the state’s obligation, as clearly laid out in article 10 of the Constitution, is to combat male violence and discrimination against women without making any distinction among women and achieve de facto equality between women and men. The proposal, in its current form, is a mere manifestation of the domination men try to establish over women’s body; an indication of the patriarchal mentality that seeks to exclude women from public space and strip them off of their status as subjects of rights by imposing norms and exerting pressure to dictate what women should and should not wear….

“The proposal also includes an amendment to article 41 of the Constitution titled “protection of the family and the rights of the child”. The amendment suggests adding to the article the following expression “union of marriage can only be established [between] woman and man”. The proposed amendment to article 41 is discriminatory and against both the Constitution and the international human rights conventions that Turkey is a party to; it constitutes an assault to human dignity and pluralist democracy.

“…The amended article states that the purpose of the amendment is to “protect the family and the institution of marriage against all types of danger, threats, assaults, decadence and impositions by perverted movements. Given that the government has engaged, at the highest level, in hatred politics and has been openly targeting LGBTI+ persons in the last 2 years, it is obvious to the public that the mention of “perverted movements” in the justification is an implication directed at lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex persons under the guise of protecting the family….

“The proposed amendment is not only discriminatory and against the spirit of the Constitution and universal norms on human rights, but also unacceptable as a constitution-making technique and in the way it is introduced to the public. In democratic rule-of-law states, constitutional amendments are law-making processes that entail active participation of all segments of society and are carried out with utmost care. The government did not consult any women organisations, nor did it share the draft with the public in any way during the drafting of the proposed amendment to the Constitution….”

Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) — New Ways Association + 171 Women’s and LGBTI+ organisations

FULL TEXT OF THE STATEMENT:  https://kadinininsanhaklari.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/SAY-NO-TO-THE-AMENDMENT-OF-THE-CONSTITUTION-WWHR.pdf