OPEN LETTER TO THE CHAIRPERSON AND MEMBERS OF COMMITTEE ON EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN AND MEN

 OPEN LETTER TO THE CHAIRPERSON AND MEMBERS OF COMMITTEE ON EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN AND MEN (COMMITTEE) OF THE GRAND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF TURKEY (GNAT)

Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men (Committee) of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNAT) was established in 2009 as a result of the struggles of women and LGBTI organizations which have a great need for policies that will produce women-centered and equality mechanisms in the Parliament. 
We are writing this letter to remind Committee’s chairperson and members of their obligations to fulfill their duties defined by the Committee Foundation Law No. 5840. 
The latest development that has prompted us to make this warning is the fact that Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Women’s Progress Regulation, which contains humiliating and discriminatory substances that is contrary to human dignity, was sent to the GNAT by the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to be approved on 25 January 2019.

Various discussions about Turkey’s membership of the OIC has long been on the public agenda. It should be remembered that Turkey could not carry out the necessary actions on national and international level to gain binding to the Founding Treaty of the OIC dated 1972 and the Condition dated 2008 which has later taken treaty’s place, and has not become a member of the organisation legally. Yet, Turkey, acting as a member of the OIC has led to the establishment of a belief in this direction at both national and international platforms. After this point, the practical benefit of expressing not being a legal member is controversial. However, even the acceptance of being a member is an example of how the state is being governed according to fait accompli.

Here we will not open a debate on Turkey’s foreign policy strategies but it must be remembered that Turkey’s foreign policy has to be compatible with state’s constitutional system and in accordance with the law. OIC is a political organisation that takes its reference from the Sharia.
However, Constitution of the Republic of Turkey cannot be changed and according to the first 3 articles, the Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state. 
Participation in an organisation based on religion is against the principle of secularism. Besides, Turkey’s setting up of organic ties with the OIC by violating more than one principles of its own domestic law, the article in the introduction part of I OIC Women’s Progress Regulation, which requires member states to “confirm the importance of raising women as respectable spouses of men, improving education, training and situation in a rapidly changing, developing and modernizing Muslim world” is against the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination of Women (CEDAW) and Istanbul Convention- that Turkey is signatory to both.

When the Regulation is referred to the Parliament, there is no legal equivalence of making a reservation in accordance with Article 90 of the Constitution. Since Turkey has not signed the founding treaty and unfulfilled the required processes to become a party by membership, despite presenting in the form of a reservation with a concern for the protection of the general principles of the constitution, it will not be wrong to see these as notifications, not just reservations. Such notifications do not have legal consequences that may be accepted within the framework of the legal reservation. To sum up, the relationship between the OIC and Turkey is not a legal process, lies on the basis of illegitimacy. This contradiction is very critical and radical that it cannot be concealed by irregular reservations.

Dear Chairperson and Members,

When we say “we as women and LGBTI individuals” we are talking about a broad political partnership that includes all women and LGBTI individuals. Because “we as women and LGBT individuals” in this country are being killed, harassed and raped by men, opposed, imprisoned and resisting. Every day we are facing attacks concerning withdrawal of our rights that we have earned, our rights and political expressions are being ignored and marginalized. In spite of all these, we strongly reject to be defined as “respectful wife to a man” as defined by the OIC’s Women’s Progress Regulation. 
Bringing this regulation to the Parliament’s agenda is not only a threat towards our earned rights, but also is a preliminary assessment of the imposition of the Sharia-based provisions into daily life and can never be accepted.

The principle of secularism is the sine qua non of democracy, freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of thought and law. Within this direction, we invite you to remember your duties and responsibilities under the parliamentary framework that you work for, to protect the Civil Code and to reject the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Women’s Progress Regulation which contains discriminatory articles against human dignity.

Yours sincerely,

Canan GÜLLÜ

Chairperson of Federation of Women's Associations of Turkey

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