Women’s groups in Turkey insist on ‘gender equality’ in new commission

As deputies discuss the formation of a “Women and Men Equal Opportunities Commission” in Parliament, women’s groups have bombarded them with faxes demanding that the long-awaited commission’s name should be changed to focus on gender equality instead of equal opportunities.

Several women’s groups issued a press release yesterday explaining their complaint. They stated that a commission with the name “Women and Men Equal Opportunities Commission” would be a step backward on the road to equality.

“Because ‘equal opportunity’ does not aim to eliminate already present inequalities but prescribes ‘equal treatment’ policies to all sides, it protects present inequalities,” said the statement released by Women for Women’s Human Rights-New Ways (WWHR), which is based in İstanbul.

The WWHR emphasized that women have been struggling since 1998 for the formation of a gender equality commission in Parliament, and as a result, the Constitutional Commission approved their demand on Jan. 29, as all political parties supported it. However, through the initiative of a few deputies on Feb. 10, the name of the commission has been changed to “Women and Men Equal Opportunities Commission” from the initially suggested “Commission on Equality between Women and Men.”

Stressing that the term “equal opportunities,” which has been widely used in many European countries for the provision of equal opportunities in the field of employment, has fallen short of ensuring equality for women in most countries, the WWHR stated that there are attempts to go beyond the concept of “equal opportunities” in order to focus on the understanding of “equality of results,” as apparent in the legislation of the European Union.

“We also would like to strongly emphasize the fact that the commission established for the realization of gender equality in the European Union is entitled the European Parliamentary Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality,” they stated.

State Minister Nimet Çubukçu recently garnered the support of all political parties in Parliament for the commission, and the proposal was finally accepted by the Constitutional Commission. The proposal was prepared in accordance with the standards of the European Union and the European Human Rights Commission.

However, a few female deputies, led by Selma Aliye Kavaf from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), found the initially proposed name objectionable on the grounds that the term used in the international literature was “equal opportunity.”

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