Cablegate: Ambassador Discusses Tip, Other Women's Issues

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: In an October 22 introductory meeting, the
Ambassador told State Minister Guldal Aksit (responsible for
women's affairs) that Turkey could serve as a model on
women's rights for the Middle East. He urged Turkey to
implement recent initiatives to combat trafficking in persons
(TIP), and to compile and release TIP-related data. Aksit
said the GOT is committed to combating TIP. She said she is
closely involved in discussions on amending elements of the
Penal Code that discriminate against women. Unfortunately,
the GOT office in charge of women's issues is understaffed.
End Summary.
Turkey a Model for Middle East

2. (U) The Ambassador told Aksit Turkey could serve as an
example for the Middle East in the area of women's rights.
The latest Human Development Report on the Arab states cites
the lack of female empowerment as a major factor in the
continued underdevelopment of the region. The economic,
political, artistic, and literary creativity of the Arab
states are being stifled by the exclusion of women, among
other factors. As an example, the report notes that Turkey
alone published more works of creative literature over the
past year than the entire Arab world combined. Aksit agreed
Turkey has made good progress on women's issues. While women
in Turkey continue to be underrepresented in government, they
comprise 25-30 percent of the workforce in areas such as law,
architecture, and medicine. Unlike some European
governments, the GOT does not support the use of quotas to
promote equality. The goal is to provide equal opportunity
for women. Unfortunately, Turkey faces problems,
particularly in the southeast, where a traditional culture
that discriminates against women and the lingering effects of
the PKK conflict have created a situation in which many girls
are poorly educated.

Ambassador: Continue Fight Against TIP

3. (SBU) The Ambassador noted that the GOT launched a number
of initiatives that elevated Turkey from Tier III to Tier II
in the State Department's Trafficking in Persons (TIP)
report. He said he would like to encourage continued
progress against TIP. Legislation alone is not enough -- the
GOT will have to follow through on implementation in order to
reach its broader goals. Two specific actions could prove
valuable: establishing shelters for trafficking victims, and
conducting an information campaign to inform the public about
TIP-related laws and the rights of TIP victims. In addition,
the GOT could help keep track of its progress by collecting,
and releasing, regular TIP-related data in areas such as
arrests, prosecutions, utilization of services, etc. Aksit
said the GOT is committed to combating trafficking. The
GOT's Directorate General on the Status and Problems of Women
has created a new committee on TIP. Civil society in Turkey
is now fully engaged on the issue. Unfortunately, the GOT
has yet to adopt organizing legislation for the Directorate
General, leaving the office understaffed. Once this problem
is resolved, the GOT should be able to make more rapid
progress on TIP and other areas affecting women.

Penal Code to be Amended

4. (U) The Ambassador said some women's groups argue that
elements of the Turkish Penal Code discriminate against women
(Note: Controversial articles include: rape between spouses
is not a crime; rapists and kidnappers can avoid punishment
if they marry their victims; and punishments for rape are
greater if the victim is married, lesser if the victim is
single, and even lesser if the victim is single and not a
virgin. End Note). Aksit said she met October 21 with
female parliamentarians and members of the parliamentary
Justice Committee to discuss proposed amendments to Penal
Code articles relating to crimes against women. She said she
will follow the amendments closely, and periodically brief
female MPs, to ensure that the law, once amended, no longer
discriminates against women.


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