According to the deputy prime-minister of Turkey, in a speech on ‘moral corruption’, in the country, women shouldn’t be allowed to laugh in public. In a meeting for Eid al-Fitr, Bülent Arınç made a call for chastity on the behalf of both men and women, arguing that the media, and television has begun to turn teenagers into morally corrupt ‘sex addicts’. Requesting that the Turkish people turn back to the Koran, Arınç asked for a return of women who bow their heads in public, and turn their eyes away when men look at their face, ‘becoming the symbol of chastity’.
The social media backlash:
Ironically, this negative advice has been the source of many smiles and mirth on social media, inspiring a flood of photographs from Turkish women showing them smiling, laughing and generally being happy, against the wishes of their government.
Thousands of women have posted photos of themselves on Instagram and twitter, with more than 300,000 tweets emerging using the hashtag term “Kahkaha” (meaning: laughter) “Direnkahkaha” (meaning: Resist laughter) and “direnkadin” (meaning: Resist women). Alongside these rebellious posts have been various arguments that the government should spend more time focusing on the serious criminal issues in Turkey, such as domestic violence, child marriage and rape, than worrying about whether women are laughing in public.
The possible results:
Despite the outrage, many Turkish voters are expected to back Arınç, treating him as the voice of reason in morally trying times. Although we may consider his behavior to be ignorant, archaic, and down-right stupid, he does represent a party which considers some serious Islamic ideals, appealing to conservative Turks.
Since the Turkish people will be voting for their own president for the first time on August the 10th, this year, the timing of the speech was not a coincident. Erdoğan, the current prime minister, who has been in power for eleven years, is hoping to continue as a self-styled ‘active’ head of state, and he has been pretty obvious about his opinion on women’s role in Turkish society, declaring that “women and men are not equal”. During a campaign this year, he also helpfully turned up at a woman’s university to remind them to hurry up and find husbands as soon as they graduate.
Women’s rights in Turkey
Historically, Turkey has been considered relatively progressive in relation to women’s rights in comparison with some of its neighbouring countries. However, the continuous problems with child brides, honour killings, wage gaps and domestic violence has suggested that the country could be taking a step backwards. On the 8th of August, women are encouraged to flock to central Istanbul and take part in a ‘laughing protest’. The truth is, if all the women in Turkey chose to vote against Erdoğan, the numbers would cause him to lose the election by a dramatic percentage, allowing them to truly have the last laugh.
Photo Credit: pixabay