The Pollmark research firm conducted a study of 5,036 women in January 2014, as per a request by the Women and Democracy Association (KADEM). The results of the study were published last week.
The objective of the research was to find out about Turkish women's socio-cultural status, rate of political participation, opinions on various issues and the factors that influence their political decisions. The study was conducted in 26 cities, including municipalities and rural locations.
Of those who participated in the study, 72.6 percent were married. According to the study, 98 percent of couples had officially married while the percent of those who had failed to get official marriage licenses was less than 0.5. Seventy percent of Turkish women were married before the age of 21, but after 22 years, as their education levels increased, women tended to marry later on in life. Among the less educated, the prevalence of child brides - women who were married between the ages of 10 and 15 - was 12.3 percent. Compared to previous studies this figure is shown to be decreasing.
The study also showed that the level of education was inversely proportional to the number of arranged marriages. The same relationship exists between rates of employment and arranged marriages.
The study shows that the number of divorcees is increasing compared to previous figures, with more women saying, "I'll do what I can but if it doesn't work, I'll get a divorce."
The most important factor in women not getting a divorce is their focus on their children's welfare.
One interesting result from the study is that 62.1 percent of Turkish women approve of flirting before marriage, while 32.2 percent don't. This is directly related to the fact that arranged marriages are still prevalent. When asked how many children they would want, 37.1 percent of women surveyed said two.
Of the women who participated in the study, 39.9 percent believed they were not treated equally to men when it came to labor and the work place. Moreover, 14.8 percent believed they were discriminated against at work because of their gender. The research found that the number of arranged marriages was fewer among women who worked than those who didn't. However, many of the women who worked said their husbands did not approve of them working.
One important statistic to come out of the study was related to the use of babysitters and nannies. In Istanbul, due to the discrepancy between supply and demand, it is very expensive to find a babysitter for one's children. However, national figures show that 90 percent of those who participated in the study had never even used the services of a babysitter.
According to the results, 60 percent of women don't use the Internet in their daily lives while 50 percent don't read newspapers.
Not surprisingly, a majority of women watch Turkish soap operas on television, are not members of a political party and have no idea what feminism is.
Despite these figures, 87 percent of women said they make their own political decisions and 63 percent identified themselves as religious - 63 percent as Kemalist, 57 percent as Islamist, 48 percent as secular, 46 percent as nationalist, 45 percent as democrat and 37 percent as conservative.
This shows that all the talk of polarization in Turkish politics is not true, at least not among women because the way they identified themselves shows that there is significant overlap between these identities.
In terms of the democratization package and the lifting of the headscarf ban, 77 percent of participants viewed these as positive developments. The study also presents some interesting figures about the issue of lifestyle, which has created serious tensions in Turkey of late. Fifty-three percent of women believe the government's policies do not meddle in their lifestyles, but 32 percent believe they do. The most positive result of the KADEM poll is that the majority of Turkish women say they lead happy lives. Long live Turkey's happy women!
About the author
Meryem İlayda Atlas is Editorial Coordinator of Daily Sabah. She is board member of TRT, the national public broadcaster of Turkey. Atlas also serves as a visiting scholar at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University.