EP report urges women's rights in Turkey

STRASBOURG, France, May 24 (UPI) -- The European Parliament this week adopted a report urging Turkey to follow up on its recent work toward securing gender equality and women's rights.

The report, written by Socialists & Democrats Member of European Parliament Emine Bozkurt, lays out a series of goals for Ankara to accomplish by 2020 in raising the status of women to fully equal members of Turkish society as Brussels and Ankara seek to breathe life into the country's stalled EU accession bid.


The Dutch lawmaker's report was accepted unanimously by the legislative body's Women's Rights and Gender Equality Commission in March, and Tuesday was approved by the entire EP meeting in a plenary session, with 590 votes in favor, 28 against and 53 abstentions, the Italian news agency ANSAmed reported.

Bozkurt, the EP's rapporteur on women's rights in Turkey, said the passage of the report -- "A 2020 Perspective for Women in Turkey" -- is meant to ensure that the European Commission keeps the issue of women's right and domestic violence in the forefront of its efforts to promote a "positive agenda" with Ankara.

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The report "stresses that there can be no democracy without women and that women should be treated as individuals rather than just as family members or as mothers," the S&D Party said in a statement. "[It] highlights the importance of placing women's rights at the core of accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU."

In the report, Bozkurt calls for "zero tolerance" on violence against women while also praising such positive steps such as a new law on violence against women and the appointment of special prosecutors to handle such cases.

It also notes progress been made in terms of providing education for girls and improving women's participation in employment and politics.

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Opposition by Turkish civil society has been intense and to a large extent has stymied the actual implementation of the reforms, but recent indications have been more encouraging as the government steps up its efforts, Bozkurt said.

"Each of the relevant ministries are busy with bringing projects to life which give effectiveness to the legislation on improving women's standard of living," she noted. "More importantly, these ministries are cooperating in the area of gender equality."

The report cites Turkey's newly established Ministry of Family and Social Policies -- now a fully-fledged ministry with its own budget.

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But many problems remain, it noted.

For instance, Turkey's new law against domestic violence "lacks a mechanism which immediately removes [alleged perpetrators] from the vicinity of the woman who has been subjected to violence" and the report urges "uniform interpretation and application" of the measure by police and prosecutors.

The EP's adoption of the report comes at a time when the European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule has sought to ease the acrimony that has arisen in EU-Turkish relations, partly due to disagreements over the status of the divided island of Cyprus.

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Last week in Ankara, Fule said restarting formal accession talks should begin by opening "Chapter 23" of the process, which addresses reforms on fundamental rights, the judiciary and corruption in Turkey.

"On women's rights, every step needs to be taken to implement the recent law on violence against women, also, to improve the situation on the ground of women in Turkey as regards education, employment and political representation," he said.

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