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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04ANKARA2667 2004-05-12 09:53:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
Cable title:  

RULING AK PARTY, OPPOSITION CHP, AND WOMEN'S

Tags:   PGOV PREL PHUM TU 
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120953Z May 04
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 002667 

SIPDIS


DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/12/2009
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM TU
SUBJECT: RULING AK PARTY, OPPOSITION CHP, AND WOMEN'S
GROUPS GRAPPLE WITH GENDER EQUALITY


REF: ANKARA 2425


(U) Classified by Polcouns John Kunstadter; reasons 1.4 b and
d.




1. (U) Summary: MPs from ruling AK Party clashed with the
opposition CHP and women's rights advocates in debates over a
constitutional amendment on gender equality. Parliament
adopted an AKP measure with expanded language on the equal
rights of men and women, while rejecting a CHP proposal
supporting "temporary measures" to ensure equality. AKP's
opponents say the party's stand reflects a backward view of
the role of women in society; AKP MPs counter that the
proposed CHP language was inappropriate for the Constitution,
and accuse opponents of using the issue for political gain.
End Summary.




--------------------------


40 Women's Groups Attend Debate


--------------------------






2. (U) In parliamentary debates May 4 and 7, AKP MPs clashed
with CHP and women's rights organizations over what wording
should be added to strengthen Article 10 of the Constitution,
which, in its current form, states broadly that all
individuals are equal before the law without regard to
gender, language, race, political/philosophical beliefs, or
religion. The amendment to Article 10 is part of a broader
package of constitutional reforms (reftel) that Parliament
adopted May 7.




3. (U) The parliamentary Constitutional Committee April 30
approved an amendment adding two sentences to Article 10:
"Men and women shall enjoy equal rights. The State has the
duty to ensure that this equality is put into practice."
However, when the constitutional package was debated in the
full Parliament May 4 and 7, CHP MPs, backed by
representatives of 40 women's organizations attending the
sessions, argued the amendments did not go far enough to
ensure gender equality. CHP proposed a further addition
stating that "temporary measures" adopted for the purpose of
ensuring gender equality "cannot be considered discrimination
or privilege," wording borrowed from the UN Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
However, AKP MPs rejected the CHP proposal and Parliament
adopted the version approved in committee.




--------------------------


Women's Groups Disappointed


--------------------------






4. (U) Nazik Isik, a member of both the Women's Solidarity
Foundation and CHP, and Halime Guner, president of the
elitist women's rights organization Flying Broom,
acknowledged to us that the adopted amendment is an
improvement, but averred that the proposed CHP language was
needed to ensure that the State takes an active role in
promoting gender equality. Isik said the biggest problem for
Turkish women is not the law itself, but how and whether the
law is implemented. By inserting a reference to "temporary
measures," Parliament could have made it clear that certain
actions are required to overcome the effects of past
discrimination. Isik opined that the specific "temporary
measures" required would vary. Quotas would be needed to
ensure women are appropriately represented in politics, while
in the private sector employers should be encouraged to favor
women when reviewing job applicants with equal qualifications.




--------------------------


AK MP: CHP Proposal Inappropriate


--------------------------






5. (U) However, Nimet Cubukcu, an AKP MP closely involved in
the debate, told us it would be inappropriate to refer to
"temporary measures" in the Constitution. She said she
supports the use of quotas and other gender equality measures
in certain cases, and noted that Article 10 does not prohibit
such practices -- in fact, CHP already employs quotas for
certain party organs. But Article 10 is a permanent
statement on the equal rights of Turkish citizens --
references to "temporary measures" belong in regulations, not
the Constitution.


--------------------------


Mutual Accusations of "Playing Politics"


--------------------------






6. (C) Women's rights advocates assert that AKP's rejection
of the more activist wording on gender equality reflects the
retrograde view of an Islam-influenced party toward the role
of women in society. "A big portion of AKP is very backward
on this issue. They are not all 'conservative democrats,'"
said Isik, in mocking reference to PM Erdogan's oft-stated
description of the party. While all of Turkey's political
parties fall short in terms of equality between men and
women, there is a genuine difference between CHP and AKP --
CHP wants "to promote progress" and AKP wants "to preserve
the status quo," Isik averred. She claimed that even some
Islam-oriented women's organizations oppose AKP for this
reason. Cubukcu, however, rejects the charge against AKP.
She accused the women's organizations (which everyone accepts
as being concentrated on the elitist "secular" left of the
Turkish political spectrum and of being too engaged in
ideological debate rather than concrete, grass-roots action)
of using the constitutional amendment to wage a political
attack. AKP is no weaker on gender equality than any other
Turkish party, she declared; if CHP were sincerely interested
in women's rights, it would field more women candidates.




7. (C) Flying Broom's Guner shares the mistrust of AKP on
women's issues, but accuses both parties of placing politics
above gender equality. She said women's rights advocates
were shocked and angered when Cubukcu -- normally a strong,
independent-minded supporter of gender equality within AKP --
opposed the CHP proposals in Parliament. Like Isik, Guner
told us rumor has it that Cubukcu decided to toe the party
line because she wants to be selected in an upcoming Cabinet
re-shuffle to replace Guldal Aksit as State Minister in
charge of women's affairs. At the same time, however, CHP
MPs seemed to want AKP to block their proposals so they could
score political points, Guner said. For example, Oya Arasli,
a female CHP deputy who was expected to play a key role in
the debate, spoke for 20 minutes on the overall
constitutional package and devoted only 3-4 minutes to the
gender equality issue. "There are only so many opportunities
to amend the Constitution," Guner said. "They wasted it on a
political fight, and now the opportunity is lost."




--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------






8. (C) Despite adopting a wide range of legal reforms in
pursuit of EU membership, AKP has not embraced Western
concepts of gender equality, and the skeptical women's rights
movement remains distrustful. At the same time, however, on
this and other issues CHP has blindly sought to oppose AKP
without emerging as a legitimate political alternative or
check on the ruling party's power. Ultimately, amending the
wording of Article 10 will have little impact on gender
equality. The Constitution already declares men and women
equal; making equality a reality will require profound,
long-term changes in mentality as much as in practice.
EDELMAN