Women’s Rights Day, which marks the anniversary of amendments for the right to vote and stand for electoral office for Turkish women, was observed on Thursday. It was the 85th anniversary of suffrage and the fifth anniversary of another revolutionary step for women wearing headscarves: the right to be elected.
Events were held across Turkey to mark the day. In the capital Ankara, Minister of Family, Labor and Social Services Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk, accompanied by women lawmakers, bureaucrats, academics and representatives from non-governmental organizations, visited Anıtkabir, the mauseloum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, to pay their respects. Atatürk is the founder of Republic of Turkey, which implemented suffrage 11 years after its establishment in 1923.
"We will march to the future with the same courage as our women who protected the national will and the country's future during the War of Independence and on July 15 (2016)," Selçuk said, referring to the most recent coup attempt. Selçuk stressed that the country will strive to eliminate all kinds of discrimination against women, including in education and employment, as well as to empower women as individuals. Lawmakers also marked the day with speeches and news conferences, as did women's branches of political parties, women's group and several football clubs.
In 1934, Turkish women were among the first in Europe to achieve the right to vote and run for elected office through a constitutional amendment. In 1930, Turkish women were granted suffrage in local elections held that year. Since then, women have been active in national politics and founded the National Women's Party of Turkey in 1972 and the Women's Party in 2014.
There has been an increase in the number of women elected to Parliament in recent decades. While in 1935, only 4.5% of lawmakers were women, this share increased to nearly one in five legislators in 2019, even with the number of lawmakers rising from 401 to 600. Today, there are 102 women lawmakers in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, just about 17% of lawmakers. Politics is still a man’s game in Turkey and although women have a relatively larger presence in the Parliament, only four out of 81 provincial mayors are women.