Seventeen participants, including employees from local newspapers and radio channels in Bilecik, Kirsehir and Eskisehir, and educators from the Anadolu University, attended the seminar. Participants discussed reporting on women's rights, the Civil Code, the new Turkish Penal Code and international agreements.
BIA² project advisor Nadire Mater spoke about the project during her keynote speech. Associate-Professor Doctor Hulya Tanriover from the Communications Department of the Galatasaray University, lawyer Filiz Kerestecioglu, Beyhan Demir, the general manager of the "Pazartesi" (Monday) magazine, Selen Dogan, the general coordinator of the "Ucan Supurge" (Flying Broom) women's organization, and reporter Ipek Calislar attended the seminar as trainers.
"Women are losing their identity"
Filiz Kerestecioglu, one of the founders of the Mor Cati (Purple Roof) Shelter Foundation and the Istanbul Bar Association Women's Rights Implementation Center, gave participants information on the amendments to the Civil and the Penal Codes.
Because of certain articles of the old Civil Code, which state that the wife should manage the house and help and advise her husband, women were legally forced to come under the authority and domination men in their marriage, argued Kerestecioglu. Women were made to lose their identity, she added.
"The head of marriage used to be men," said Kerestecioglu. "Men used to represent the marriage to third parties. The father used to have the last word in case of disagreements over custody.
"The woman's last name would be directly replaced by man's. The husband's residence would automatically become the wife's residence. Under the old Civil Code, the woman was economically dependant on her husband and was under his authority and dominance.
"The woman's identity was dissolved within the marriage and in a way, she lost her identity."
"Woman's body no longer belongs to the society"
Kerestecioglu argued that a social identity under the domination of men is imposed on women. She said that the old Penal Code also caused women lose their identity. "Women's bodies were almost regarded as commodities belonging to the society. Any attack against women was seen as an attack against the society instead of an individual," said Kerestecioglu.
To explain her point, Kerestecioglu said rape, under the old Penal Code, was included in "crimes against the general ethics and traditions." Rape was regarded as a crime that damages the general ethics and social order, said
"The traumas and shocks were regarded as impacting not a single individual, but the society. The fact that men hold in their hands property, domination and capital, leads to seeing attacks against women as attacks toward the society. This reflects the attitude of generally the law toward women."
According to Kerestecioglu, under the new Penal Code, woman's body no longer is regarded as a commodity belonging to the society. She said rape is now under the title, "crimes against individuals" and subtitle, "crimes against sexual immunity."
"An individual who violates, through sexual acts, the body immunity of a person, may be sentenced to 2-7 years in prison," said Kerestecioglu. "If the act is committed through a body part or an object, the offender may be sentenced to 7-12 years in prison. Under the old Penal Code, the law would focus on whether the woman's virginity was damaged. Now the crimes which used to be regarded as against the society are regarded as crimes against women's body."
"Equality is reflected in the legal language"
The new Civil Code No: 4721 ends men's dominance in a marriage or family, said Keresteciglu. With the new Civil Code, marriage and family are seen as a partnership based on the equality of the man and the woman. "This attitude is reflected in the legal language," said Kerestecioglu.
"The words, 'husband and wife,' are replaced with the word 'couples.' The husband is no longer the head of the family. Couples, as equal partners are carrying out the marriage with equal decision-making rights. They have equal rights to representation."
According to Kerestecioglu, there are some very important amendments to the Civil Code. Among these are: in-house labor being seen as a real value and participation in jointly-acquired properties. She said millions of women became victims because the Civil Code went into effect on January 1, 2002.
"Where are the shelters?"
Kerestecioglu said that opening shelters is very important for providing security for women. She added that the municipalities law requires a shelter for every 50,000 people.
"The journalists have to ask where these shelters are. We don't have enough of them even in Istanbul. They need to ask where the mayors are; where the government is."
She added that the laws are new and interpretation is very important:
"We are students all over again. This is actually an opportunity for all of us. The first interpretation becomes a statute for the Supreme Court of Appeals. That's why interpretation is very important. A big responsibility falls upon journalists."
"You are not born a woman, you become a woman..."
Associate-Professor Doctor Huya Tanriover, who spoke about women's representation and women's rights violations in the media, said women's representation in the media gains legitimacy through news. She gave information about such representations.
"Women are either subjects of the news on the third page, or are the 'back page beauties,'" said Tanriover. She said women are either portrayed as good wives, devoted mothers, or victims of unfaithfulness, rape, or as sexual objects. She defined such representations as being 'sexist' and 'racist.'
"Women's image in newspapers, televisions, paparazzi programs and soap operas is important, argued Tanriover. "However, a more important problem is the lack of representation of women. In other words, women are symbolically being destroyed."
Tanriover said that social sexuality is different from the birth sexuality, and added that women are represented under this framework. "When babies of two different sexes are born, there is no difference between them other than anatomic differences," she said. "Difference begins when the boy is dressed in blue and the girl in pink... As Simone de Beauvoir says: "You are not born a woman, you become a woman.'"
According to Tanriover, media acts sexist when choosing cases of women's rights violations to cover. She said an abuse or rape news story should seek to raise awareness and fairness. She added it is important to have different
ways of covering the story.
"We are on the side of women"
Beyhan Demir, the general manager of the Pazartesi magazine said their magazine served as a platform for those who are oppressed and discriminated against.
"In this patriarchal system, we prepare our news or commentaries, keeping in mind that phenomena that are generally accepted and that have become myths, are in fact not myths that are a result of a natural process."
Demir emphasized that they are on the side of women. "We are not objective. There is no such thing as objective any way. We are on the side of women." Demir said they have a policy of telling the truth and showing women ways of dealing with it."
"We try to tell them that things are not their fate and that they can be changed. We show them what to do about their problems and try to help them."
"Women in our country have the opportunity to improve themselves," said Professor Doctor Engin Atac, the rector of Anadolu University. "30 percent of the managers in our university are women. A country's development begins with women."
Deputy Associate-Professor Doctor Emine Demiray from the Communications Department of the Anadolu University, said they have a class on "Media and the Social Sexuality." She said in that class, they focus on the point of view the mass communication vehicles have toward women and added this was a very important topic for those who plan to work in the communications industry. The "Media and the Social Sexuality" class at the Anadolu University is a first in Turkey.
Participants talked about their opinions about the program at the end of the seminar. (NG/EA/YE)
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