"In a place where men exercise the political power, certain practices of behaviour towards women are being enforced. Men think they get away with what they do. The only way out of this power structure is to protect each other as women. Policies of identity should be left aside in order to be able to move altogether against crimes against women".
This is a statement of Necla Akgökçe from the "Petrol-İş"('Petrol-Work) Women Magazine regarding allegations that Emirali Şimşek, Secretary General of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Public Employees (KESK) sexually harassed a woman while the Steering Board of the union remained silent.
"Women's statement is fundamental for crimes against women"
The General President of KESK, Sami Evren, and the Member of the Steering Board, Adnan Gölpınar, resigned on Monday (29 November) by reason of their "resistance to investigate the allegations of the KESK Steering Board and to reach a solution".
Subsequent to their resignations, the steering board convened and a statement was issued on behalf of the union by the Women Secretaryship saying that "the allegations were breaking the back of the institution. Neither did we protect anybody nor did we take the statement of the woman who was being harassed as a reference".
Akgökçe on the other hand emphasized, "Sexual harassment is a male crime against women and this sort of accusations are predicated on the woman's statement".
"For women who have been sexually harassed or raped it is very difficult to talk about the incident. A few women act as if nothing has happened".
"Women Secretaries should be voted by women"
According to Akgökçe, the allegations of sexual harassment at KESK shed light onto two problematic areas:
First of all, women in KESK define themselves with a superior identity and position feminism in the place of an inferior identity. Second, the women's secretaries are not elected by women's votes during the convention. Instead, appointments are decided by the man who leads the group from within the winning list.
"A 'women secretary' is appointed by a man at the head of a women group from the list of people who were elected by the general assembly within the structure of the confederations. For this reason, he feels a stronger responsibility for his own group than for the women".
"Evren's resignation is not enough, all institutions must be functioning"
Akgökçe highlighted the fact that allegations of sexual harassment were on the agenda since June. She also stressed that a case of rape which occurred in the Muğla Branch (south-western Turkey) of the Education and Science Workers' Union (Eğitim-Sen) was tried to be concealed. Before this background Akgökçe stated, "The resignation of Sami Evren is not very important".
"We are struggling for the statutes and programs of unions and democratic mass organizations to be free of discriminating applications, sexism and harassment. Yet, the incident at KESK shows that the amendment of basic texts is not sufficient".
Akgökçe indicated that all institutions within the confederation must be functioning in order to avoid the incidents to be turned into a victim of election calculations by men.
This will only be possible by leaving identity policies aside both outside and inside the confederations to move altogether and by triggering the internal mechanisms of the union. (BB/VK)
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