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 New York Times on Turkey's Adultery Law

 Source : New York Times
  Kurd Net is NOT responsible of the content of the article

 


New York Times on Turkey's Adultery Law 14/09/2004
By SUSAN SACHS

 


[Hundreds of Turkish women protested. One had a photo of an unmarried woman said to have been killed for having a child.]

The New York TimesVan is in a conservative area, but there was little call for the law. AN, Turkey, Sept. 14- After suffering a wave of criticism from European Union officials, women's groups, newspaper columnists and finally from its own members, Turkey's governing party abandoned a proposal on Tuesday to criminalize adultery.Even so, the party, which has sought for two years to reassure Turks and foreigners that it had no Islamic fundamentalist agenda, may have lost important political good will at home and abroad."Especially now, when Turkey is doing so much for E.U. membership, the fact that they're trying to bring in this law raises questions about them," said Gulseren Demir, a caseworker at the Women's Association in Van, in southeastern Turkey.

 "To tell you the truth," a co-worker, Alev Sahar added, "we never trusted them." The proposed adultery law had been debated in the news media during the past month, while Parliament was in summer recess, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had repeatedly said he endorsed it as a way to preserve the family.His Justice and Development Party had been expected to introduce it on Tuesday when the deputies reconvened to vote on a voluminous new penal code. But by the end of the day, with protesters in the streets and some European officials darkly warning that it smacked of fundamentalism, the proposed law had not made an appearance.

 No one even stepped forward even to claim ownership.Party officials said the proposal, once fiercely defended by some deputies, had won few supporters during a closed party meeting the night before."There is general agreement that we will not propose that kind of thing right now," said Reha Denemec, a deputy chairman of the party. "We've got something like 340 different articles to get passed - we did 60 or so in four hours - and it's very important to do these things right now."During its brief and contentious public life, however, the adultery proposal shone an unwanted spotlight on the backgrounds of the party leaders.

 Most are veterans of Welfare, a more militantly Islamist party that briefly ruled in a coalition government in the mid-1990's. The army removed it from power in 1997.Mr. Erdogan was a senior Welfare member and a former mayor of Istanbul who spent time in jail in 1999 for reciting a poem in public that talked of mosque minarets as bayonets.

 His action has not been forgotten by the powerful military establishment, which sees itself as the guardian of Turkey's secular system. But since sweeping into power nearly two years ago after his party won nearly two-thirds of the seats in the Parliament, the prime minister and his party aides have generally sidestepped issues that might make the military and the nationalists bristle. Instead, he has shuttled continuously between Turkey and European Union countries, vigorously promoting Turkey's bid to begin accession talks leading to membership. He has also presided over wholesale changes in the Constitution, a rewrite of the administration law, revisions of the civil code and, now, some hundreds of proposed amendments to the penal code - all to bring the country's laws in conformity with European Union standards.

 The European Commission in Brussels is expected to decide whether to recommend a date for accession talks at its meeting on Oct. 6. European Union leaders are expected to vote on the matter at their summit meeting in mid-December. A number of those leaders have already expressed doubts about whether Turkey, a majority Muslim country, belongs in Europe.

 In the face of those misgivings, the sudden appearance of the adultery proposal last month brought a sharp warning from Günter Verheugen, the European Union's enlargement commissioner.During a visit to Turkey last week, he said, he bluntly asked Mr. Erdogan why the adultery issue was being raised now, and he warned the Turkish leader that it would undermine its campaign for acceptance in Europe. Suspicion about the intentions of the party, which is known by its Turkish abbreviation, A.K.P., has never really evaporated, despite its general popularity as a can-do government and its near-total dominance of Turkish politics since its success in municipal elections around the country six months ago.

 Even the party's supporters appeared puzzled at the attempt to legislate morality - adultery is forbidden in Islam, as it is in most religions - at a time when Turkey has been trying to prove its European credentials. "It's true that people's suspicions about the A.K.P. were awakened," said Selahaddin Direck, a contractor and businessman in Van who has been an enthusiastic supporter of the party and Mr. Erdogan. Even though the region is conservative and might have favored outlawing adultery, he added, there was no particular demand. "Maybe another time, or on another platform or in another presentation, the issue can be put on the agenda again," Mr. Direck said.

 "But at the moment, E.U. membership is more important than such debates. So it was very unfortunate. I don't think there could have been a worse time to introduce such a debate."Criminalizing adultery could bring more harm to women in a country where honor killings, the murder of women who are suspected of dishonoring their families through their sexual conduct, are still not uncommon, according to the Women's Association."There is already lots of violence against women," Ms. Demir said. "This law would endow the man with even more authority and power, and could increase the number of crimes against women."A previous adultery law in the criminal code punished a man if it was proved that he had set up housekeeping with a woman or installed her in a house. But it punished a woman simply for having sexual relations with a man other than her husband. Turkey's highest court ruled that law unconstitutional eight years ago, saying it discriminated against women.

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