Women’s Struggles for Participation in the Political Sphere: the Case Study of Nezihe Muhiddin
In this paper I shall examine concerning the women’s attempt for gaining rights to elect and be elected in the world. Women have gained these rights through various struggles. We did not gain this rights naturally. From this point, in our country Nezihe Muhiddin played a key role for the women’s emancipation in politics and political life. Her party, Women’s People Party, is extremely valuable for women to gain political rights.
Women, women’s struggles, politics, political life, Nezihe Muhiddin, WPP
Participation of women in political life is extremely limited due to the social roles attributed to women from past to present. The public and private distinction of daily life differentiates women and men in terms of their rights and responsibilities. This caused diminishing women existence in public sphere. Because, especially cultural institutions within society which are religion, culture, family and norms set boundaries between two sexes. And again this institutions cause to accept something as a normal with process of socialization. During the gender socialization process; society transforms roles of being a woman and man, and this transformation occurs without any questioning. It is seem as natural and inevitable by the society. This distinction is something related to establishing boundaries between two spheres, like building a wall… The distinction has caused a dichotomy, that means that being a woman is always part of private life, on the other hand being a men is related public sphere which is also called political sphere. Radical feminists criticized this issue with the slogan ‘Personal is Political’. Their main argument is related discrimination, this discrimination provides to legitimize patriarchal societies’ thought. In addition to this, either private or public sphere there is always conflict of powers. If there is power already there is power in everywhere, became political. Even the first movements in feminism were aimed at the political rights of women. First wave; mainly suffrage of women which began first half of the nineteenth century, second wave; which was advocated by liberal feminists mainly related to increase women’s status in public sphere, third wave also was really about what feminism means. Women have fought a wide variety of struggles for their rights. The main theme of women’s movements around the world is freedom and equality. This article does 5 parts. First part, is related to general perspectives of women and politics in the literature. Second, consists of general umbrella of the world in terms of being women women’s struggle for political participation in the world. The third, consists of the same issue in specific country, Turkey concerning the timeline. Third, is related that important person, Nezihe Muhiddin, and the contributions of in this regard. Fourth, is resolution parts, the fifth is related to conclusion part.So far, the part of the article draws a large circle for women’s struggle to participate in political life. Concerning the parts of the article will begin to fill the inside of the circle.
2. Women’s Struggle For Political Participation
2.1 What Happened in the World Concerning the Women’s Attempt?
Women’s first organized action began in 1642 against the papacy because face of gender discrimination in religion. Their aim was related to being equal with men It is important to emphasize that women have gained these rights through various struggles. It is a well known the fact that in the world women have achieved right to elect and to be elected later than men.
Let us now analyze some countries concerning the gaining this rights.
In the United States, Lucretia was a woman who boycotted slavery. Because in America, the women’s movement began with racism and slavery. In 1848, a women’s rights meeting was held in Seneca Falls. And the other women, Mott, founded the Women’s Rights Association and spoke about the political demands of in Seneca Falls. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote Seneca Falls, the first woman’s declaration in history.This meeting included the lack of women’s suffrage, participation, and representation in the government; women’s lack of property rights in marriage; inequality in divorce law ; and inequality in education and employment opportunities. Seneca Falls Convention played a significant role in shaping the first wave of feminism in the United States and starting the fight for women’s suffrage.
Stanton said that;
“We are assembled to protest against a form of government, existing without the consent of the governed—to declare our right to be free as man is free, to be represented in the government which we are taxed to support, to have such disgraceful laws as give man the power to chastise and imprison his wife, to take the wages which she earns, the property which she inherits, and, in case of separation, the children of her love.”
In the Russian Federation, there was a massive demonstration in Petrograd in 1917. With the help of the February Revolution in that time helped to gain women’s suffrage and then in July 1917, women had right to vote. In Sweden, Sweden is one of the best countries in the world that provides gender equality, and again it is one of the countries with the highest participation of women in political life. In this country, women gained rights elected and to be elected in 1845. Scandinavian countries, including also Sweden, did not give enough attention to women’s rights until 1901. Concerning the China, there were three waves of movement for political rights. They established the Women’s Suffrage Alliances. Historically speaking, most of the countries within European Economic Community had gave this rights to the women. According to parliamentarian of Holland said that way of equality for women has been opened when European Economic Community (1758) established.
In Iran, women had gained the right to elect and to be elected in 1963. The 1979 Iranian Revolution represents a transformation point for the Islamic Republic of Iran. This country, which provided more modernity before the revolution, has created a model of theocratic state of Iran with Khomeini, who described itself as the religious leader. Unlike the traditional system in Iran, there is a system called the Velayet-i Fakih System. This system is an important model to legitimize that Iranian politics is particularly religious-based management. That means that, Khomeini and Khomeini’s new state almost ignored women. According to Kahraman, mentioned this situation in this way;
“Women in Iran will never be able to take over the political decision-making mechanism unless the current conditions change.”
Rwanda, an African country, has more women in parliament than men. The genocide has an important effect on the high rate of women in the parliament because, compared to women, a large decrease in male population has been observed. One example from one author mentioned this situation in this way; “The genocide in effect destroyed the social fabric in Rwanda. Demographics changed dramatically; women’s roles in society and gender relations were fundamentally transformed. In the aftermath, women assumed non-traditional social and economic roles, stepped into the public sphere, and, as described above, took on new responsibilities. The genocide forced women to think of themselves differently and in many cases develop skills they would not otherwise have acquired.”
2.2 Women’s Role, Struggles Concerning the Political Life in the Turkish Society
Women’s movements began in the Ottoman period especially after the constitutiona time. Because before this time, there was no parliament so that there was no necessity for giving rights to elect and to be elected. Before I explain which movements are, we need to understand general environment at these times. The central question then becomes: why women did? We can define women movements as kind of uprising… The people who are happy do not think of doing this. If there is an unrest on the people who have been subjected to various pressures and difficulties, then the people start somethings because of the government. To answer this question, we actually can begin by taking a closer look at what was going in the Ottoman and the world. Firstly, the decrees issued in the Ottoman Empire usually caused women’s devolarization. For example, these decrees were related to regulate women’s clothes, relationships between men, going to the street… Even women are forbidden to enter sweet shops, to ride with men in the sandalwood. In 1876, the right to vote was granted to only men. Even if there were no women in the first census, it was about only men. In the other census, women were also counted to look at the resource consumption because of the financial crisis in the Ottoman. Secondly, women in the Ottoman Empire affected from other parts of the world, such as development in Europe.
In the Ottoman Empire Newspaper and magazine publishing started in the 19th century. With the help of magazines and newspapers, women were more stronger to create awareness. For example, the Terakki (Progress) newspaper mentioned about the rights of women in the west and their demands for political rights in order that Ottoman women could demand it. The Ottoman women were being tried to be enlightened. In fact, there was a Men’s World magazine which was aimed at women’s issue, supporting the women’s movement with looking after t man’s lens. It was an impressive thing in early time. In addition, women established a lot of associations that helped women to be well organized. Associations have created a serious experience for women’s political struggle. There were associations that was deeply related to political purpose for the women. Women who have established or tried to establish after the independence war, the Women’s People Party is under this heading. During the Independence war (1919-23) women roles had more. Yeşim Arat (Arat, 1989) mentioned this in her book for this period.
“The war (1919-23) precipitated effective role changes, both because women had to assume men’s jons after men were recruited for the army, and also because they fought alongside men in battle.”
One of the main similarities happened during the occupation of İstanbul, men and women were well-organized to protest collectively. Halide Edip Adıvar, Münevver Saime had important demonstration.  Everyone in the city agreed to defend the city, it did not matter whether they are women or men. There was no any discrimination between women and men. There is a persistent theme that shows us to emerging of the women in the public sphere.
When we concern about women’s studies in Turkey often started with women organizations which established during the Constitutional years. During the time of the Young Turks, women not only have gained the right to study at the university, to divorce, but also they have gained to work as civil servants in government departments and workers in factories.. The war of independence ended with the founding of the Turkish Republic. In this respect, first of all, the Caliphate was abolished on March 1, 1924; on the same day, Tevhid-i Tedrisat passed the law and schools were taken under state supervision; in 1925 Tekke and his lodges were closed. The declaration of the Republic brought many changes especially for women’s rights. In other words, women were seen more in the public sphere. Women’s attraction to education, labour and politics, in other words to the “public” fields defined in different forms, can be defined as one of the characteristics of a secular state. In June, After the foundation of the Republic, Nezihe Muhiddin, who expressed that women should have equal rights with men, was the advocate of this issue with the associations they established. 1923, women formed a political organization that is called the Women People’s Party under the leadership of Nezihe Muhiddin and she played a key role for the women emancipation. She wanted women’s rights to be recognized and her aim actually was related to impress the mass women. . According to Nezihe Muhiddin, the most important condition for the rise of the country was the rise of women. The rise of the woman not to look like that guy the difference alone is healing. The only desire of Nezihe Muhiddin was to become a true actor in the women’s revolution. Muhiddin established WPP (Women’s People Party) but at these times the government called WPP by the “separatist” nature of the obstacle encountered, they decided that women’s struggle continued with the name of the Union of women of Turkey. 1930’s were not welcomed in one-party Turkey especially with this groups. Emancipation of women took place under the strict discretion and monopoly of the Kemalist regime; women were not allowed to organize on their own or lobby for their own rights. Subsequently, corruption was claimed about the Women’s Union, and the decision was made to dissolve by being declared illegitimate. In 1934, following the amendment to the law granting women the right to elect and be elected, Istanbul became an independent candidate for the elections. Nezihe Muhiddin, who could not be nominated as a candidate with different quota practices in the elections, continued to write a novel and teaching in his next life. We learned about the struggle of Turkish women to participate in political rights with Nezihe Muhiddin, and our women had taken their political rights by fighting as they did in other countries. The end of Nezihe Muhiddin was ended in the mental hospital. Unfortunately, there is not much consciousness in our country about this woman who has done studies in order to participate in the life of the woman. We all have the right to elect first, and all our efforts for the achievements have been defined by virtue of the Nezihe Muhiddin. Unfortunately at that time, the rights were not deemed appropriate, and they were not given the opportunity to grow. It is important to emphasize that most of the rights we have now have been under the leadership of Nezihe Muhiddin; she continued her struggle for women without giving up.
The structure of politics was shaped in a male dominated manner. Women have tried to find a place in this masculine structure and they have had a lot of difficulties in trying to find a place. Concerning the political rights of women in Turkey, important step occured in 1934, women gained the right to elect and be elected as deputies. Even if this right must considered as a natural rights, but unfortunately we classify this situation as a vested right. In this respect, they have gained some rights, such as, to elect and be elected, the right to vote in the municipal elections, the right to be a proxy in Parliament, and the right to be a head office. All in all, we owe her a lot.
Problems and Suggestions for Participation of Women in Political Life
In the literature, women have always been subjected to discrimination, such as baby-sitting, which is seen as appropriate for the women. This is an example of how society defined role of women. Compare to politics between men and women has always been defined as something that is male-dominated. Moreover, the lack of communication between women in different parties prevents women from becoming more representative in parliament and reaching a consensus on the law on equality of men and women. Because the women in our assembly are not trying to destroy the male-dominated structure, but they are trying to exist in it. This shows very clearly that it does not mean that women exist only in the National Assembly. That’s why we have to focus more on the substantive representation that women will provide us in political life. It is important to see what differences women do when the women elected in parliament and what kinds of contribution they make in terms of providing gender equality for all life. Because of the misogyny that means women’s humiliation due to their gender, we have less number of women especially the political life. Women are always associated with ‘not interested in politics’; this is the result of the barriers women have put forward in this regard. To abolish this thought, we need to make women conscious.
This paper lead us to conclusion that women in the world have made various struggles for political rights. This right has not been granted to any woman directly. There are leaders in every country for women to win this right. In the case of Turkey, this woman is a Nezihe Muhiddin. Everything the she did about this issue is an important step for the Turkish woman. Thanks to the road paved by Nezihe Muhiddin, we see women especially in politics. Since this discrimination is usually men, the state should give various seminars to create gender awareness for men, especially for men. And this has to be enforced. It should teach that men and women are not subjected to various discrimination because they are men and women. According to the equality stated in our constitution, the distribution of equal numbers to parliament should be brought. With the help of the this equal number brings trole-model of the citizens and can help to increase the number of women in politics. Last but not least, women who have been trying to overthrow dichotomy since the beginning of our history, are very important in terms of having these rights right now. That is why these leaders that have existed in all the countries of the world must not be forgotten, and we must move towards according to their steps.
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