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Turkey - UN Concerns about Disparities in Enjoyment of Economic, Social & Cultural Rights between Women & Men & between Regions

[Roj Women, London, 31 May 2011] The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which reviewed Turkey in May 2011, has recently produced its Concluding Observations. Roj Women’s Association welcomes the support of the Committee to our key demands, reflected throughout the document. The following are the most remarkable points in it:

  • Turkey is called to adopt a general law on non-discrimination,
  • There is concern about the absence of a legislative framework for the recognition of minorities, including the Kurds, and about the denial of their rights.
  • Significant disparities between regions in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights as well as a concentration of the incidence of high poverty in the eastern regions, are noted. For example, while the national average for women’s participation in the labour market is 22%, this figure drops to 6% for south-eastern regions of Turkey.
  • Concern that women’s working conditions have worsened in recent times with many of them forced to seek employment in the informal economy (66% of working women in 2006) is expressed. The Committee requests Turkey to review its social security schemes to ensure that workers, in particular women, in the informal economy are also covered.
  • Alarm at the very high incidence of violence against women. The Committee calls Turkey to criminalize domestic violence, strictly enforce relevant laws, increase the number of shelters, and monitor the discharge by relevant public officials of their responsibilities when dealing with victims of domestic violence.
  • The Committee calls for the allocation of the necessary resources for the implementation of the National Action Plan to combat violence against women and to involve the civil society in its monitoring.
  • Maternal mortality remains high, particularly for women living in rural areas who do not have adequate access to sexual and reproductive health care (in South East maternal mortality is double than in West Turkey).
  • Lastly, Turkey is called to expand the supply of day-care services and to adopt the quota system to accelerate women’s representation in political life and in the labour market.

Despite their valuable job and their support to voice civil society’s concerns, Roj Women’s Association regrets that the Committee does not mention explicitly in its Concluding Observations the need to provide education in languages other than Turkish. For instance, Kurds are unable to be educated in their mother tongue. Thus, Kurdish girls who cannot speak Turkish face difficulties because they encounter Turkish for the first time in their lives at school, at the age of 5. The rate of illiteracy among women in Diyarbakir, the biggest Kurdish province, is of 56%.

Roj Women’s Association is looking forward to Turkey implementing the recommendations of the UN Committee and will monitor progress in this regard.

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