Canan Güllü: ‘The order of weak woman and obeying family is claimed’
In “the Action Plan of 100 Days’, President Erdoğan said that “The system of maintenance payment should be rendered fairer”, the ministries started to work on removal of maintenance payment. Thereafter some statements like “lifelong maintenance payment cannot be’, “the maintenance payment system should be rendered fairer”, “a time limit should be brought” were uttered. Federation of Woman Associations of Turkey’s President Canan Güllü told about the reaction rising from the woman associations against the maintenance payment’s being targeted: “The order of weak woman and obeying family is desired”.
While the violence against woman is at the highest level and while every day at least three women are killed by their ex-husbands or their husbands from whom they wanted to divorce, instead of resolving these problems, the government’s targeting the maintenance payment is drawing reaction from the woman organizations. Among the ones who reacted is the president of Turkish Federation of Woman Associations, Canan Güllü who participated “The Maintenance Payment Workshop” that was organized with the cooperation of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Family and Social Services. Stating that “the order of weak woman and obeying family is desired”, Canan Güllü has answered the questions of halagazeteciyiz.net about the system of maintenance payment, the examples of implementations, the government’s intention with the regulation, and the workshop:
First of all, what is the maintenance payment and why is it important? What will you say?
The maintenance payment which is enacted by the civil code’s articles 175 and 176 is a form of protection for the party who can impoverish with divorce. It is a mechanism of protection of the party who would impoverish with the cease of the marriage. The duration of payment is left to the judge who has to take into consideration the duration of marriage, the degradation in the career of the one party. It may be the woman or the man. In our country, of course, it is mostly the woman who receives the payment and there is a very wrong perspective that sees the maintenance payment as “the exploitation of man in terms of money”. Thus it is a legal regulation that is imposed by the state for prevention of impoverishment of individual.
Today, what are the conditions to receive the maintenance payment that is received, as you said, mostly by women? Is it enough for the women?
We said that the maintenance payment is ‘the legal situation that is adjudicated after the judgment about the impoverishment of the person and some due criteria is reached’ by the judge’s investigation decision based on the application of the divorcing couples. So it is the payment on the basis of the amount appraised. As it is mostly not paid, the number of receivers seems more than actual number of receivers in the prevailing conditions.
You asked that “Is it enough for the women?’, but I have no exact answer to this question, since the ministries of Justice or Family did not make any research done on the issue. I can answer you only based on the field data.
NO DATA FROM THE MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
We need the answers to the questions such as “How many people did divorce, what are their genders, how many people do pay the maintenance payment, how many people did sue the increased maintenance payments, what are the payments-incomes ratios?” At the Ministry of Justice, the decisions taken can be transmitted to us by use of the National Judiciary Informatics System (NJIS). This can be done at least for the period that the ministry begins to use the informatics system, so we can have a general view of the situation. But there is not such a report. (I leave aside the question that how it could be included in the presidency’s action plan of 100 days as one of the most important problems, although there is not such a report).
OBSERVATIONS FROM THE FIELD
Then, let me tell you about our observations from the field:
- In our country where the early age marriage is intense and progressively increasing, the girls between the 11-18 ages can be dropped out of school and made to marry, thus they are deprived of the chance of having a profession. After 30 years in such a marriage, in case of divorce (Of course, if it is an official marriage; as known well since most of them are not official, the unjust treatments are at the highest level. In 2016, we opposed the Constitutional Court’s decision abolishing the article that the religious wedding is not possible without the official one. Moreover following the 4+4+4 regulation, the number of girls who left school after the second four years reached 676 thousands by the year 2016), the question is whether the maintenance payment is necessary, as they have no income, no social security since they never work; in addition, the ratio of woman real estate property owners to all property owners is 1 percentage according to the official records.
It is well known that most men transfer their properties to their friends and families, therefore the maintenance payment based on net salary, especially based on the minimum wage, will not be enough.
THE WOMAN WHO WILL IMPOVERISH SINCE SHE DOES NOT WORK
- Let’s assume that girls would have been sent to school, graduated from high schools, started to work and decided to marry. When they give birth, because the state support for daycare centers is not enough and the public day care centers were closed, the woman is the one who would leave the work to take care of the child. Woman sacrifices her career and economic freedom. If she divorces, the conditions in marriage will go on; the child care will be undertaken by her, to whom she may leave the child. We are not living in a country, where daycare centers are opened with reasonable prices. It is as if the women work just for the daycare fees.
What impoverishes this woman who will impoverish because she does not work is the marriage union’s removal of her from the work life.
You, too, has participated the workshop about the maintenance payment. What is this regulation? What does it contain?
I participated in the collective work of the ministries of Justice and Family (should be Woman). The aim is “to take the measures that retain women from divorcing.” Besides they themselves prepared it. In the five minutes that they gave us to speak, we, as all woman organizations, said that there was no need to make an amendment to bring any limit to the maintenance payment in the articles 175-176th of the Civil Code. But the academicians said that “the articles should be changed”; I believe that they do not live in this country, because the comparisons they made have nothing to do with the facts of our country. The bureaucrats from both ministries who made the closing speeches did not just point at amendment as if there was an agreement, but also stated that for the reason that they paved the way for divorces, they would make reservation via the Grand Assembly to some articles of International Istanbul Convention, of which we are proud to be first signatories. This was the real calamity. Let me remind that, for the ones who may not know, according to the Istanbul Convention, in the divorces due to violence, the conciliation offers are forbidden.
‘MARRIAGE MUST GO ON EVEN IF THERE IS VIOLENCE’
Now, if the ministry whose concern is that “violence may occur, it is possible, but the structure of our holy family is deteriorating, how can we prevent it” thinks that “if the woman knows she cannot receive the maintenance payment, she will not divorce. Meanwhile our state would mediate between the parties and reconcile them. If the issue is the continuation of the holy family, we can do this in such a way”, it is obviously wrong. As it is well known, too many women are killed in this country and the killer is either the husband or the ex-husband. Disregarding all dangers and risking their lives, the women go away from the men whom they do not want to live together anymore. It is very sad to see that there are judges who prefer the easy way and say that “we should turn back to the 1988”, instead of saying that “why these murders are being committed, how we can resolve them, how we can strengthen the women and mold the men”. They are trying to make the women turn from divorcing by limiting the maintenance payment. There is not such a limit in the law; it is totally due to judicial discretion. The judges are the ones who have to make case-sensitive decisions, since all divorces have their own peculiarities. Telling the judges that “you should take this decision” and expecting that the justice would be done is another problem. I am leaving it to the lawyers.
Alright then, what does the government want to do with this amendment? After the women are quite weakened, is it said that they would stay married even they are exposed to violence?
This is what I am exactly trying to say. Women have suffered for years with the insight that “Do not let it out this room”. In recent years, some gender based laws that tell the woman that “you are an individual, he has no right to use violence against you” have been enacted. Although there are works to fix the legal practices, now ‘we should abandon these laws’; why? Nobody has right to take the country 30 years back by copping out and saying that ‘men are disposed of the dominance with this game, I would not play it’. I am an activist who has worked in the field for a very long time… I think that the mentality that at very last moment added the word ‘opportunity’ instead of ‘equality’ by a proposal during the foundation of the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s Commission for Equality of Women and Men is on again. It is necessary to look at that how much this equality causes damage and on whom the damage has effects. There are of course people who are troubled with the woman who is strengthening and disobeying with an improving criticizing conscious. Therefore the ideas such as “if the woman smokes at streets and wears pants, studies in a university, she will backslide” have to be fought against.
Was the aim of the Divorce Commission that came into agenda in 2016 that? Why is such a commission needed?
This was the question we, too, asked most. What is the reason for the idea that “how we could conceal the problem”, instead of taking actions for further improvements? Then, while we objected and said that “this commission is trying to downgrade the vested women rights’, our opinion was opposed, but the report remained as draft and could not be brought to the General Assembly. In the report there were several handicaps that directed social problems to deadlocks, from prevention of right of heritage in the childless marriage to the dormitory support to the ones who married during university years and from the prevention of the perpetual maintenance payment to the guidance of women that are exposed to violence to courthouses instead of police stations. In the beginning, it was said that “there is not such a report’; afterwards it was revised. But we have the first version of it. Although the commission report remained as draft, its being on agenda today is upsetting.
Wrong knowledge about the maintenance payment prevail the society. For example, women receive perpetually the maintenance payment. Is this the case?
In general women are accepted as the figures who leave their husbands and have their husbands’ money to burn. However, the maintenance payment is the amount that is decided by the judges who calculate it for an ended marriage that has continued for years. But as always, the habit of dignifying man and insulting woman is at the gates. Woman is the one who is left for a younger woman after a marriage of 30 years. Woman, who is made to end her career because of a better management of housework, the jealousy crises or the traditional patterns, and woman who leaves the school to marry, or cannot find a job because of her age has to live with the maintenance payment. At this very point, I recommend you to read the field study by Adil Gür about the woman problem. Beside the other themes, that study excellently analyzed the absence of women in working life. We do not know how many women receive the maintenance payment, but if it were not necessary, the judge would not decide in this way; and the criteria I mentioned above should have been fulfilled so that the maintenance payment could be assigned.
The removal or limitation of the maintenance payment is qualified as ‘economic violence’. Do you agree?
Of course, it is an economic violence. The ministry says that “Look, mind your manners, do not dare to divorce. If you dare, you will receive no maintenance payment. Even if you did, we would add annotation to the Istanbul Convention’s articles that prohibit the mediation. You would be subjected to the mediation process, you would not be able to divorce and you would live in misery’. This would influence some of women. They would consent the domestic violence and derangement as their ‘fate’. But some of them would fight to divorce, thinking that “instead of living in such a way…”
Well, does this affect the violence against women?
Even the publicly discussion of the issue for such a long time and the state’s supports for efforts to render women helpless would make the violence increase. They promote the idea that “you can divorce in no way, you are obliged to me”. The women are enslaved to their conditions by the opinions that “You cannot find a job, you cannot receive the maintenance payment, and you cannot make your living”. However we can improve our economic development by eliminating the barriers before the women employment, preventing the early-age marriages, making the official marriages compulsory, strengthening the substructure of flexible employment models and increasing women representation in decision making processes; so we can have happier families with peaceful individuals. In the presence of strong society and strong family structure, we all know that who aims weak women, obeying family structures, and uncritical education system and for what reasons they do that.
Translation: Aydın Ördek