Turkey’s population is 84.680.203 by 31 December 2021. According to a research conducted in 2014 by the collaboration of the Directorate of Religious Affairs and the Turkish Statistical Institute, the percentage of the Muslim population in Turkey is 99.2%. However, according to a research conducted by Optimar (a research company) conducted in 2019, this percentage decreased to 89.5%. According to the same research, 74% of Muslims are Sunni Muslims and the percentage of Alevi Muslims in total population is 12.5%, while 4.5 % believed in God but did not belong to an organized religion, 2.7% were agnostic, 1.7% were atheist, and 1.7% did not answer. Besides, today the Christian population is estimated between 200,000-320,000 and the Jewish population is considered around 14,500.
Information About Muslim Family Laws And/or Practices In Turkey
Main Laws Governing Family Laws
In Turkey, the family law is rooted in the secular Civil Law and it uses only secular sources since 1926.
Equality in Marriage
Article 10 of the ConstitutionArticle 10 of Turkey’s Constitution (1982), https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Turkey_2011.pdf?lang=en states that:
- Everyone is equal before the law without distinction as to several basis, including sex;
- Women and men have equal rights and measures that the State is obligated to take to achieve this purpose is not be interpreted as contract to the principle of equality.
- Turkish Civil Law, Article 250 sharing of the property, Article 254 equal rights to family estate and household items.
Although the law treats women and men equally except the fact that women bear their husbands’ surname, in fact, there is a disconnect between the law and stated policies and actual implementation. State policies and court decisions serve to increase the already existing gender inequality in the society.
Minimum Age of Marriage
Minimum age of marriage is 18 in Turkey. However, boys and girls who enter into the age of 17 can marry with the permission of their parents. Also, boys and girls who enter into the age of 16 can marry with the permission of the judge.
However, marriages before 18 are still prevalent and do not enter into state statistics since most of these marriages occur by way of religious marriages (not civil marriages)
Divorce Provisions for Women and Men
Legally, women and men are equal in terms of divorce provisions. However, socially, women’s access to divorce is difficult due to the gender inequality in the society, which is indicated by women’s low employment rate, social obligation of childcare and lack of both familial and state-based support mechanisms.
Positive Feature(s) Under Muslim Family Law
There is no positive features towards women in the Civil Code. However, in practice, some laws provide benefits for women. For example, according to the Article 175 of Civil Code (the law on the welfare allowance, the gender of the party is not stated but since women are more disadvantaged in the society, they benefit from this law. Also, in the Law No 6284, which aims to prevent domestic violence, the gender is also not specified but this law provides protection for women.
Administration Of And Access To Justice On Marriage And Family Matters
Divorce laws are adjudicated in the family courts. If the case is contested divorce, adjudication usually takes so long. The decision of divorce and alimony is given together in the same trial.
The only application made outside the family court is about the surname of the woman. These decisions are given in the primary court of law.
Constitutional Provisions and National Legislation
Article 10 of the Turkish Constitution states in its first paragraph that everyone is equal before the law without distinction as to language, race, colour, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion and sect, or on any other such grounds.
The changes in the Constitution, the Civil Code and other legislation in the 2000’s have produced considerable advances in the equality of women and men before the law and ensured the supremacy of universal human rights’ standards.
After the codification of Turkish Civil Code which was basically an adaptation of Swiss Civil Code, Sharia law was abolished and the republic declared to be a secular state with the amendment of the constitution. Turkey has a secular and unitary legal system. Thus, the constitution does not have any exception for Islamic law or any other family law. The only exception of equality is affirmative action which is also regulated in the constitution.
Other National Laws
- The first regulation on domestic violence was Law for the Protection of the Family (Law No. 4320) which was codified in 1998. After the ratification of Istanbul Convention, The Law for the Protection of the Family and Prevent Violence Against Women (Law No. 6284) was codified which considers domestic violence and violence against women as forms of gender based violence. Even though withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention has been announced, the judicial review of withdrawal decision in Turkey continues and Law No. 6284 is in effect for all including the Muslim population.
- The Penal Code which was codified in 2004 takes an important step forward towards eradicating the traditional practice of honor killings. The general article about the “Unjust Provocation” in the previous Penal Code which was often misinterpreted in the name of honor and was used to grant sentence reductions to perpetrators has been amended and prevented its application to honour killing cases. Furthermore, “killings in the name of customary law” have been defined as aggravated homicide in the new penal code and marital rape has explicitly been acknowledged as a crime.Serkan Azak, Women for Women’s Human Rights, Turkish Penal Code Nevertheless, domestic violence or different types of violence against women are not defined as separate crimes in the Penal Code, violent acts can be prosecute under the general crimes in the Penal Code such as injuries, threats and homicides.
Regional or International Human Rights Principles
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
- Turkey ratified the convention on Dec 20, 1985. It ratified it with the reservation with respect to article 29, paragraph 2,https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N06/309/97/PDF/N0630997.pdf?OpenElement which states that any dispute between two or more Parties concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention which is not settled by negotiation shall, at the request of one of them, be submitted to arbitration or to the International Court of Justice.
- For the full history of reservations and withdrawal of reservations:
- “On 20 September 1999, the Government of Turkey notified the Secretary-General of a partial withdrawal as follows:
- “[…] the Government of the Republic of Turkey has decided to withdraw its reservations made upon [accession to] the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women with regard to article 15, paragraphs 2 and 4, and article 16, paragraphs 1 (c), (d), (f) and (g). […] the reservation and declaration made upon [accession] by the Government of Turkey with respect to article 29, paragraph 1, and article 9, paragraph 1 of the Convention, respectively, continue to apply.”
- On 29 January 2008, the Government of the Republic of Turkey notified the Secretary-General that it had decided to withdraw the following declaration in respect to article 9 (1) made upon accession: “Article 9, paragraph 1 of the Convention is not in conflict with the provisions of article 5, paragraph 1, and article 15 and 17 of the Turkish Law on Nationality, relating to the acquisition of citizenship, since the intent of those provisions regulating acquisition of citizenship through marriage is to prevent statelessness.”https://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/reservations.htm
Links to CEDAW reports that refer to Muslim family laws and practices.
- Shadow NGO Report on Turkey’s Seventh Report to The Committee On The Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, For Submission to the 64th Session of CEDAW, July 2016 https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CEDAW/Shared%20Documents/TUR/INT_CEDAW_NGO_TUR_24253_E.pdf
- Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. List of Issues and Questions in relation to the seventh periodic report of Turkey. 27 November 2015 , https://www.refworld.org/publisher,CEDAW,COUNTRYREP,TUR,577e133e4,0.html
Links to Musawah’s CEDAW reports on Turkey
Any other relevant regional or international treaty or convention signed by Turkey
Turkey has ratifiedhttps://indicators.ohchr.org/:
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995.
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2003.
- The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families in 2004.
- The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009.
- Turkey signed and ratified the Istanbul convention, but withdrew from it on July 1st, 2021.
Sustainable Development Goals
- Turkey is a signatory of the Sustainable Development Goals. “Turkey was among the 22 countries that submitted their first voluntary national review to the HLPF (which is the main United Nations platform on sustainable development) in 2016. The VNR process commenced with the highest-level political ownership on the Turkish president’s call to all government entities.” https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/sustainability-transitions/sustainable-development-goals-and-the/country-profiles/turkey-country-profile-sdgs-and
- The Presidency of Strategy and Budget under the Presidency of Turkish Republic has published an evaluation report on the goals of Sustainable Development Goals in 2019.https://www.sbb.gov.tr/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Surdurulebilir-Kalkinma-Amaclari-Degerlendirme-Raporu_13_12_2019-WEB.pdf
Key Resources About Muslim Family Law
- Legal system is secular in Turkey and there are some resources on the secular Civil Code by activists and civil society groupshttps://ceidizler.ceid.org.tr/Adalete-Erisimde-Toplumsal-Cinsiyet-Esitligi-Haritalama-ve-izleme-calismasi-i237
- The Mor Çatı Foundation’s Shadow Report for ECHR Opuz v. Turkey Group of Cases indicates the primary problems arising on the struggle against violence against women in Turkeyhttps://en.morcati.org.tr/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Opuz-v.-Turkey-Group-of-Cases.pdf
- Mor Çatı Foundation’s brochure on Law no 6284 address women and seeks to provide information on how to make use of the Law in general and under emergencieshttps://en.morcati.org.tr/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/law-no-6284.pdf
- Despite being a secular country, however, Turkey has a state institution, called the Directory of Religious Affairs, which delivers nonbinding fatwas on familial issues. Following is the website of High Council of Religious Affairs on which fatwas are deliveredhttps://kurul.diyanet.gov.tr/
In Turkey, feminist campaigns are very effective in pushing for law reforms. The reformation of the Civil Code in 2002, which grants women equal rights with men, was a largely result of the feminist movement’s efforts. Following are the feminist campaigns that led to the legal changes in Turkey.
- 1986: “Implement CEDAW” Campaign
- 1987: “No to Beating of Women”
- 1989: “Purple Needle” Campaign – Purple Needle was a campaign against sexual abuse and assault in public spaces.
- 1990: “No to Virginity Checks” Campaign – This campaign was against the practice of families/partners taking their daughters/lovers to the hospital to make sure that they were virgin.
- Campaign against the Old Civil Law’s article 159, which subjected women’s right to work to the husband’s approval.
- Campaign against the Old Criminal Code’s article 438, which stated that “if the crimes of rape and kidnapping are committed against a woman who has taken up prostitution as her profession, up to two thirds of the penalties written in the articles are reduced.”
- Campaigns against “honour killings”, and campaigns for calling it femicide, instead of “honour killing”.
- Campaigns to push authorities to “implement the Article 6284” – the article implemented after Turkey ratified the Istanbul Convention in 2012. It is about the protection of women and families against violence.
- Campaigns against the right wing NGOs and the AKP governments’ efforts to decrease the duration of alimony paid to women.
Links to key women’s groups working in the issue of women’s rights (These organizations are not exclusively working on Muslim family law.)
Turkish Civil Code (TCC) was codified
Amendment of the Article 2 of the Constitution of 1924, which removed the provision declaring that the "Religion of the State is Islam"
Turkey's ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Amendment to the TCC (Article 159, which bound the woman's ability to work to the permission of her husband, was abolished)
Annulment of Article 441 of the Criminal Code (which required additional proof that a married man was openly living with another woman)
Amendment to the TCC (Article 153, which entailed the use of the surname of the husband, was changed)
The Law for the Protection of the Family (Law No. 4320) was codified
Annulment of Article 440 of the Criminal Code (which defined adultery as a criminal offence)
The Government of the Republic of Turkey has decided to withdraw its reservations made upon [accession to] CEDAW with regards to article 15, paragraphs 2 and 4, and article 16, paragraphs 1 (c), (d), (f) and (g).
Amendment to the Article 41 of the Constitution to define the family as an entity that is “based on equality between the spouses” and the Article 66 of the Constitution was amended to remove the clause “the nationality of a child born to a Turkish mother and foreign father is regulated by law” to eliminate the former inequality between women and men.
The New Turkish Civil Code was codified.
The Code of the Foundation, Competence and Procedures of Family Court (Law No. 4787) was codified.
Amendment of Article 10 of the Constitution which made the state responsible both for ensuring non-discrimination between women and men and taking the necessary measures to provide equal rights and opportunities in practice for women in every field and also a new sentence was added to Article 90 Paragraph 5 of the Constitution ensured the supremacy of international human rights’ conventions.
The New Turkish Penal Code was codified. (Articles 5 and 122 states that “no discrimination shall be made between persons with respect of sex” to ensure gender equality)
Amendment of Law No. 4320, which allows family court judges to decide all precautionary measures to be taken against the perpetrator, including sending the perpetrator away from the spouse's house.
Turkey's ratification of the Council of Europe Treaty on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention)
The Law for the Protection of the Family and Prevent Violence Against Women (Law No. 6284) was codified.
Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.
This country page was prepared by Dr. Ceren Akçabay, Ayşenur Değer and Burcu Kalpaklıoğlu as a collaboration with Havle Women’s Association and under the Campaign for Justice in Muslim Family Laws.