Last Sunday, women gathered in one of the Istanbul’s busy centers, Kadıköy. Their aim was to protest violence against women and the inaction of the state. However, as usual in recent years in Turkey, the police jumped in and dispersed the crowd, detaining some of the women protesters. One wonders why on earth the police would not let women raise their voices against violence against women. It was declared by the governorship of Istanbul that the police had dispersed the crowd due to anti-state slogans that were chanted.
This seems to be the new normal. Whenever people gather to protest, to exercise their constitutional right, the police jump in and find a reason to stop the protest. The perception of the human rights of women, however, is another side of the issue. Interestingly, whenever the rights of women or violence against women comes up, Turkish men bring up the issue of alimony. This seems to be the new trend.
The very Monday after women were dispersed for protesting violence, a Turkish celebrity, Kaya Çilingiroğlu, was on TV. He is famous for his marriage to a Turkish movie star. He had an episodic divorce and another episodic marriage. Çilingiroğlu said, “Aren’t men being raped in this country? Men suffer too. For example, a man marries then wants a divorce. He tells his wife to let him go. His wife asks for money from him. What is this ‘alimony,’ for god’s sake?”
Çilingiroğlu is not the only one who thinks Turkish law gives more advantages to women than men. He got quite a lot of support on social media. One twitter user, for example, wrote that some people use the rights of women as an intellectual accessory — while he also gave support to Çilingiroğlu. One other user wrote, “I love this Turkish way of feminism, you demand equality, but when it comes to divorce, you expect men to look after you.”
The initiative against alimony is gaining traction. Men first organized under the “divorced fathers platform,” which then turned into “victims of permanent alimony.” They simply do not want to pay alimony to their ex-wives and they demand a change in the law.
According to Article 175 of Turkish civil law, in the case of a divorce, the party who falls into the condition of poverty has the right to demand alimony permanently from the other party. In the law, genders are not specified, but usually women are the party that is to receive alimony from their ex-husbands. Having children and taking care of them usually leaves women behind at work. Many women tend to leave work after having kids; thus most working places do not provide kindergartens for working moms, and the state does not provide enough kindergartens. Having a permanent babysitter is usually expensive and does not add up with a woman’s salary. In more traditional Turkish families, husbands demand their wives leave work and become stay-at-home moms. Apparently things work themselves out between couples until they do not.
The law also aims to empower women in cases of domestic violence. Without financial support, women usually can not attempt to file for divorce. They are usually anxious about ending up penniless and homeless, and thus they prefer to tolerate violence. However when they know they will have some kind of income guaranteed by law, they have the chance to free themselves from abusive marriages.
Men who do not want to pay alimony claim that they are being exploited by their ex-wives, who tend to get money from their exes rather than working. However feminists think there is a deeper agenda than that.
Women's rights defender and lawyer Hülya Gülbahar spoke to the Media 4 democracy website about this issue. She claims that the fight against alimony is just the first step and that the rights of women under civil law are under attack. Gülbahar claims the next step will be a demand to change the inheritance law, which divides inheritance between men and women equally.
The pro-government newspaper Sabah wrote that the law will be amended with the new reforms package. According to the newspaper, permanent alimony will only be given in cases when a spouse is too old or sick to work.
On another note: according to data gathered by the news outlet Bianet, between January 30 and November 30 of this year, 305 women were killed by men, 46 women were raped, and 556 women were attacked.