Turkish Civil Code

The new Turkish Civil Code, which abolished the supremacy of men in marriage and thus established the full equality of men and women in the family, was approved by the Turkish Parliament on November 22, 2001, and came into effect on January 1, 2002. The old Turkish Civil Code of 1926 was translated and adapted from the Swiss Civil Code of the time and included several articles reducing women to a subordinate position in the family. For example, the husband was defined as the head of the marriage union, thus granting him the final say over the choice of domicile and children. The new Code sets the equal division of property acquired during marriage as a default property regime for property aqcuired after the new code went in effect, assigning an economic value to women’s hitherto invisible labor for the well-being of the family household. It also sets 18 as the legal minimum age for marriage for both women and men (it was previously 17 for men and 15 for women), gives the same inheritance rights to children born outside marriage as those born within marriage, and allows single parents to adopt children. In addition, in October 2001, Article 41 of the Constitution was amended, redefining the family as an entity that is "based on equality between spouses.” The new article reads: "The family is the foundation of Turkish society and is based on equality between spouses."

The new Civil Code has taken a new approach to the family and to women’s role in the family. The old legal approach, which assigned women a legislatively subordinate position in the family with rights and duties defined in respect to the husband, has been abandoned in favor of one that defines the family as a union based on equal partnership. Consequently, this new concept is also reflected in the language of the new Code. The terms “the wife” and “the husband” are replaced by “the spouses.” Moreover, the legal language has been considerably simplified and out-of-date terminology replaced by comprehensible, modern terms, rendering the law more accessible for everyone. The new approach to the family is reflected in several changes:

  • The husband is no longer the head of the family; spouses are equal partners, jointly running the matrimonial union with equal decision-making powers;
  • Spouses have equal rights over the family abode;
  • Spouses have equal rights over property acquired during marriage;
  • Spouses have equal representative powers;
  • The concept of “illegitimate children,” which was used for children born out of wedlock, has been abolished; the custody of children born outside marriage belongs to their mothers.