KEIG PLATFORM PRESS RELEASE
THERE ARE WOMEN IN THIS ELECTION! BUT, WHERE AND HOW?*
The struggle that has been put up by feminist organizations and womens movement for years started to make a dent in male policies. Political parties that understood that they would lose by ignoring womens problems have begun to spare a larger part for womens issues in their electoral manifestos. Although this is a huge development, there are still many problems about how women are positioned and their problems are approached.
The electoral manifestos of AKP and MHP are not well-designed and the electoral manifesto of CHP suffers from the same problem in several places. The presence of mainstream and general expressions, and lack of details of how the promises will be fulfilled show that womens power is accepted; however, they still avoid entrenching gender equality in the plans and programs of the parties. Therefore, we encounter promises which are contradictory to each other and that are not prepared sufficiently consistent and complete. One of the significant contradictions is that MHP mentions promotion of gender equality and at the same time gives promises about empowerment of women within the family. Within this political perspective which positions women within the family and does not project any kind of empowerment of women outside the family, the promises related to gender equality do not seem quite likely. CHP focuses mostly on rights to ensure gender equality. Besides, it is also contradictory that CHPs manifesto incorporates political regulations for gender equality and also emphasizes promises that they position women within the family.
It is observed that HDP is the political party that has the necessary and satisfactory promises for gender equality and spares the most space to womens evaluations and demands among the four political parties in the parliament. Publication of a special manifesto expressing that it is a womens party clearly shows the perspective of HDP.
In this text, we evaluate the electoral manifestos of the political parties describing their envisagement of the future in terms of womens labor and employment. After we compared the promises of the political parties, we reached the conclusions below.
When will women’s invisible labor be visible?
One of the most important demands put forward by the feminists is making the free and unpaid domestic labor of women such as child/sick/elderly care, cleaning, cooking, ironing etc. visible. HDP emerges as the only party that underscores this invisible labor. AKP and MHP ignore the domestic labor of women by defining them within the family and offer a perspective that considers it to be a duty of women. CHP only accepts the burden of childcare and promises to offer childcare services. Apart from HDP, we do not encounter a holistic promise of policies for the equal sharing of responsibilities of care and domestic work among men and women and the socialization of these duties. Although HDP emphasizes a societal change against the sexist division of labor, in some issues, we do not encounter a detailed plan about how this will be ensured.
As it is a very well known fact, care responsibility, which is seen as a burden of women, excludes women from all spheres social life. When we consider womens participation to workforce, womens burden of childcare constitutes one of the biggest obstacles. The near nonexistence of services provided by the government for early childhood care and education and the fact that men do not share the care responsibility equally with women mean that women either cannot participate to workforce or they withdraw from the workforce temporarily or permanently. This crucial issue that we have been voicing for years as women constitutes a common issue in all the electoral manifestos. The designations and promises in the electoral manifestos about care responsibility, which is one of the major obstacles against womens participation to workforce, are in general dealt within the context of harmonization of womens work and family life. However, the responsibility of men in this regard is either ignored or not sufficiently addressed. Especially, two political parties which have conservative and nationalistic reflexes, AKP and MHP, take a perspective which reproduce traditional gender roles which position women in the family and continue to develop their policies within this perspective. Both women themselves and their care labor are made invisible.
AKP openly expresses that they adopt policies which women have the main responsibility of childcare in their “womens employment package” and “family package” announced in recent years, and at all occasions spokesmen/women of AKP express that the fundamental duty of women is motherhood and to ensure continuity of the family. For this reason, womens participation to workforce is encouraged with a flexible employment method so that their duty of childcare is not disrupted. In connection with this, all regulations claimed to be for the harmonization of work and family life in the electoral manifesto do not take men into account who are fathers and merely target women who are mothers. The electoral manifesto promises to expand “high-quality, affordable and easily accessible” nurseries but the responsibility of the government is confined merely to “promotion”. Besides, the aim of “provision of registered female employment via domestic care services” in the electoral manifesto can be evaluated as that women are encouraged to be employed at home and in care work even though they work in paid jobs. Furthermore, the fact that formalization of unpaid and insecure care work that women are already doing at home is shown as an aim to increase womens employment stands out as a separate problem.
MHP promises “regulations for joint and nontransferable parental leaves for mothers and fathers” within the context of harmonization of work and family life. However, the general tendency to strengthen family and position women within the family in the manifesto and the fact that this tendency does not overlap with the necessary policies to ensure gender equality show that this promise is in contradiction with the general policy of the party.
In terms of responsibility of care and care services, it is not wrong to say that CHP and HDP seem to adopt a more egalitarian perspective. Both parties state that care responsibilities are imposed to women by the society and offer suggestions for the solution of this problem. CHP promises free, easily accessible and qualified care services; however, the party offers these regulations in in relation to the harmonization of work and family life and does not refer to the responsibility of men in this issue. HDP puts forward that care services are important not only for womens participation to workforce, but also to all spheres of social life. HDP, which suggests organizing these services both for men and women, advocate the equal responsibility of men and women in care. However, since the necessity of men taking responsibility is not sufficiently detailed and underlined in the manifesto, whether the proposed application will encourage men to take responsibility emerges as a question mark. HDP also emphasizes that these services have to be provided in the mother tongue.
A dead-end in womens employment: Vocational training and entrepreneurship
Although increasing womens participation to workforce is available in all electoral promises, there are similarities and differences among parties about how to achieve it. In the electoral promises of AKP and MHP, the participation of “women and youth” to workforce is considered on the basis of the development of the country. Since both parties emphasize that the fundamental duty of women are in the family even though they work in paid jobs outside, they encourage flexible employment as a model in which the care duties of women will not be disrupted. CHP conceptualizes the promotion of womens employment within a model of “economic growth with womens employment” and the party asserts the importance of economic freedom for women. HDP allocates a large space to womens labor and employment in their electoral manifesto and they incorporate very detailed proposals. Womens economic independence is brought to the forefront and they promise suggestions of concrete regulations and structural changes to increase womens full-time and secure employment, and to make womens invisible labor both at home and at work visible.
In the proposals to increase womens employment, the manifestos of AKP, MHP, and CHP promise vocational training and promotion of entrepreneurship. It is an important problem that the existing vocational trainings maintain the sexist structure and the differentiation of “womens job-mens job” and they are not accessible to women (due their location, time, and lack of childcare services etc.). AKP and MHP propose vocational trainings, but they have no promises about the contents and the implementation of these training which currently do not have a major contribution to womens employment. MHP promises to organize vocational trainings for “housewives”, in this way the party both makes womens unpaid labor at home invisible by defining them as “unemployed” and also reiterate that they do not see women independent from the family by defining womens participation to the workforce as “contribution to family budget”. On the contrary, CHP draws attention to one of the major problems in the vocational training system and they promise to reorganize the vocational trainings by “considering the need for workforce and vocational skills”.
Encouraging women for entrepreneurship emerges as another promise aiming to increase womens employment. At every opportunity, we express that there are severe problems about womens entrepreneurship that is on the agenda and encouraged in the recent years. While womens entrepreneurship is presented as if it is an important method for womens participation to workforce, the fundamental needs/factors such as accumulation of capital, knowledge of finance, involvement in business networks etc. are not taken into account. Independently of these conditions, women are thrown into this male-dominated field with the fabricated perception of that every woman is capable of being entrepreneur and credits provided in very small amounts, they are limited to certain sectors regarded as “womens job” and all the threats and problems they encounter very shortly are ignored. In their electoral manifestos, AKP and MHP indicate that womens entrepreneurship will be encouraged and this will be realized through credits, consultancy, and tax cuts; however, they do not mention any solutions for the problems indicated above. MHP takes encouragement of womens entrepreneurship within the context of fighting against unemployment, they promise to ensure grants up to 50% to women who start businesses.AKP and MHP propose entrepreneurship as an aim to increase womens employment, while CHP takes it as a support activity rather than a substantial regulation. While CHP mentions about increasing grants to women they do not make any explanations about the method to fulfill this promise.
CHP and HDP mention the expansion and promotion of womens cooperatives. However, as we know from the experiences of women, cooperatives, which provide an opportunity for both economic and social growth of women, bring the heavy obligations and this may lead to the closure of many cooperatives and harm women while they are being empowered. Therefore, the contents of the articles about this issue are of huge importance but we do not observe any explanations in the electoral promises regarding this issue.
There are also some promises regarding women seasonal agricultural workers, domestic workers and home-based workers in the electoral manifestos. Although AKP promises to facilitate the access of women seasonal agricultural workers and home-based workers to social security, they do not provide any explanations regarding how this will be ensured. MHP offers some promises about seasonal agricultural workers but they do not say anything special for women. HDP allocates separate headings for seasonal agricultural workers and domestic women workers, states their problems in detail and includes almost all the demands of womens organization in this field as promises in its manifesto. In addition, HDP also mentions migrant womens labor.
What do women expect at workplace?
One of the promises in the manifestos is for combating against discrimination at workplace based on sex. AKP does not address the issue in any way, MHP merely says “negative discrimination against women at workplace shall be finished” and does not provide any details.
We see that the CHP aims at a more detailed regulation. Promises include making necessary regulations and additions to Labor Law for the prevention of any kind of discrimination against women and inclusion of concepts like verbal, physical and psychological abuse, and mobbing. There are also promises like sex quotas and incentives for women taking part in management positions; vocational training and employment quotas, and tax cuts for womens penetration into the professional areas that are seen as “mens jobs”; prevention of violation of rights by women receiving an equal pay with the men doing the same job; and elimination of problems of transportation to workplace and security. CHP emphasizes that the obligation of businesses to open nurseries will be reorganized to be based on not only the number of women workers but all workers.
HDP offers concrete proposals for all the practices based on the gender inequality at work in its manifesto. They criticize the fact that women are seen suitable for low-paid and insecure jobs and they promise to put an end to sexist practices like mobbing and abuse. They state that the order of the workplaces will be organized in the most suitable way for the care responsibilities of women and men and they aim at making it mandatory to open free nurseriesfor all public/private workplaces with at least 50 employees regardless of whether they are male or female. Additionally, the aims include re-opening of closed public nurseries. Besides, in its electoral manifesto, HDP also promises to declare March 8 International Womens Day as a paid holiday with free transportation for all women as an indication of the fact that they show regard to the demands of women.
Where are women in social rights?
In the electoral manifestos of AKP and MHP, we see that social rights are considered within a perspective of social assistance; therefore, not as rights but on the basis of “neediness”. Within the framework of societal promise of AKP built upon the idea of strengthening the family, they state that social assistance will be provided in a way that protects the family and “the size of the family will constitute the basis” for the determination this assistance. MHPs electoral manifesto declares that “family support” that will be the half of the minimum wage will be provided to “needy” families until one of the members of the family finds a job. The promise of making these payments primarily to “housewives” shows that the prominent addressee of this support on the basis of neediness is women. Both manifestos aim to provide assistance on the basis of household rather than the individual and womens traditional roles in the family are reinforced through the assistance.
In the electoral manifesto of CHP, the “Powerful Social State Project” is centered on Family Insurance Program. CHP aims to strengthen women in family with this insurance and they indicate that nursery and home care support services will be provided. CHP, which puts forward that family insurance will strengthen women, promises to pay this support to women by locating them within the family and this conflicts with the goal economic independence for women.
In its electoral manifesto, HDP criticizes social rights being seen on the basis of assistance and neediness and advocates the equal provision of all social services based on rights and without any discrimination. In addition, they criticize the understanding of assistance that reinforces the traditional roles for women. HDP remarks that the state is responsible for providing care services to the citizens and all citizens are to benefit from these rights regardless of whether they are poor or not. The manifesto also states that payments will be made to those who need home care without “the application of humiliating poverty test”.
Additionally, it seems important to establish the connection between social assistance/support and employment to prevent people from becoming dependent on these aids. Especially as far as we can see from the existing practices and as indicated in the electoral manifesto of AKP, registering people receiving assistance to İŞKUR (Turkish Labor Agency), mandatory participation to vocational trainings through İŞKUR and expansion of this practice bears the risk of forcing people to work in the jobs that they do not desire. HDP considers directing people who receive assistance to employment by not only registering them to İŞKUR but also incorporating them into employment policies. However, how this connection will be established is not detailed.
Discrimination against disabled women and LGBTI
In general, disabled women are not sufficiently included into existing policies and our envisagement of the future. However, it is a very important step that HDP made disabled women visible in its electoral manifesto. We are content to see measures including practices that support the participation of disabled women to both employment and other spheres of life. CHP mentions disabled individuals under almost all the headings in the manifesto. Although it is ignored that the discrimination that disabled women experience may be differentiated, CHP seems to make most comprehensive statements about the problems experienced by disabled individuals among the electoral manifestos. MHP mentions disabled individuals under several headings in addition to heading of social protection. MHP addresses disabled individuals as a “group to be protected”, promises to facilitate their participation to employment and social life; however, the manifesto does not include any statements or promises that make disabled women visible. AKP mentions social aids and home care services provided to disabled people and that they increased the employment of disabled people, and announces that these policies will be maintained; nevertheless, there is no policy developed for the discrimination against women with disabilities.
Additionally, LGBTI individuals who are subjected to an intense discrimination in social life due to their sexual orientations and identities find a place in the manifestos of both HDP and CHP. CHP seems to refrain from directly expressing their name and conceptualizes the problems of LGBTIs as a “cultural problem” based mostly in Istanbul and places it in a general framework of fighting against discrimination. HDP makes a more detailed evaluation under the heading of “LGBTIs right to an equal and free life with dignity”. In the electoral manifestos of AKP and MHP, LGBTIs seem to be an ignored group. Moreover, AKP not only ignores the existence of LGBTIs but also accuses HDP of “being away from the reality of Turkey” due to its incorporation of them in its manifesto. Yalçın Akdoğan summarized the perspective of AKP for LGBTIs thatare not included in the manifesto by saying “Here we saw the manifesto. They mention lesbians, gays and stuff. I mean they are that away from the reality of Turkey”. 
Towards the end…
AKP does not see women as individuals; they cram women into heterosexist families where male values are dominant and women are kept under control. Furthermore, the elderly and disabled are made an issue negotiation on the basis of “family values”. They do not mention gender equality in their manifesto in any way. MHP mentions the topic in a few places, but the fact that gender equality is not permeated throughout the manifesto shows that the sensitivity for womens rights in public opinion in recent years is abused. Although CHP is one the parties that mention women and womens rights the most, it is hard to argue that manifesto has a real “spirit” of gender equality. Despite some shortcomings, one has to accept that HDP is the political party that internalizes gender equality the most.
The issue of womens labor and employment finds itself a place among the promises targeting women in the manifestos parallel to the their perspectives of gender equality. That is, AKP and MHP, which do not mention gender equality at all or include it in contradiction with the general ideology of the political party, continue to keep womens domestic labor invisible, and their promises for womens employment are on the basis of economic development instead of liberation of women. Although the idea of gender equality is not well permeated throughout the manifesto, CHP emphasizes womens economic liberty and incorporates important evaluations and suggestions about sexist division of labor and discrimination at workplace based on sex. HDP, which published a separate Womens Manifesto, tries to permeate the perspective of gender equality throughout the manifesto by aiming at a structural transformation in society. They emphasize the invisible labor of women in the family and in the work life and they offer concrete suggestions for change in the male-dominant society and work life. HDP also incorporates demands of womens organizations regarding home workers, seasonal agricultural workers and labor of migrant women into its electoral manifesto. When all the promises are evaluated together, we need to state that HDP directly includes womens demands and it is the most “promising” party for the fulfillment of these demands.
21 May 2015
* The original declaration has been shortened for translation.
“Yalçın Akdoğan: Lezbiyen, Gey, Bilmem Ne”, bianet, April 24, 2015. http://www.bianet.org/bianet/siyaset/164054-yalcin-akdogan-lezbiyen-gey-bilmem-ne