Prime Minister Erdoğan’s words about abortion and caesarean has nothing to do with Islam, says Pınar Ilkkaracan, an adjunct professor who was included in Newsweek’s 150 women who shake the world list. “Widely followed in Turkey, Hanafi sect permits abortion up to the 120th day, while Maliki sect restricts it to 40 days. It is clear, Islam allows abortion,” she says.
By Özlem Akarsu Çelik / AKSAM(http://www.aksam.com.tr/islamiyette-kurtaja-izin-var–118804h.html)
Turkey listed fourth from the last in World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report, which covered 135 countries. An adjunct professor trained in psychotherapy, who was included in Newsweek’s 150 women who shake the world list, Pınar Ilkkaracan devotes her life to women issues. She has works on various issues including violence against women, abuse in the family, bodily rights in the Middle East and honor killings. She is also one of the founders of The Association of Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways and The Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies. She represented Turkey in UN Commission on the Status of Women several times and awarded the Gruber Prize for Women’s Rights of The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation in 2007. In the interview, she responds to the abortion debate while talking about policies on women in Europe where she lived for years and women’s human rights problems in Muslim countries where she travels often for work.
VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS
How did the Western world react to Prime Minister Erdogan’s anti-abortion comments and his directives for a change in the legislation?
Prime Minister Erdogan’s comments caused a big shock. None of the countries in the West would now defend Turkey as an example/model country for the Middle East, because the Prime Minister’s comments violate the UN and the international agreements.
Women’s organizations are very sensitive to this issue and feel uncomfortable to discuss it as a ‘right’. How about you?
According to the UN, abortion is a right in countries where it is not banned by law. Women had to fight big, long battles to have that right.
Women’s organizations agree that abortion is not a birth control method, don’t they?
Of course. We shouldn’t even be talking about that. To say that “women use abortion as a birth control” is unjust and wrong. It is the duty of the government to make sure that women have access to all types of birth control methods.
NOTHING TO DO WITH RELIGION, IT IS POLITICAL
Do Erdoğan’s anti-abortion views result from his religious beliefs?
I am a believer, and I know that this issue is not even remotely related to Islam. Islam is not a misogynistic religion. In this debate, woman body is used to play politics. In the earlier veil issue, women were offended by being used as a political material, and now same thing is happening with abortion.
Does Islam allow abortion?
Is fetus a human being from the moment of conception? When it becomes a being? There are different canon laws regarding this issue. For example, followed widely in Turkey Hanafi school permits abortion up to the 120th day, while Maliki school restricts it to 40 days. It is clear; Islam allows abortion.
Can Justice and Development Party ban it?
In the face of a banning attempt, not only Turkey but women’s organizations all over the world would revolt. We are already receiving emails and calls from four corners of the world. They are trying to understand what is going on in Turkey. First, they should look at the number of women who dies as a result of illegal abortions in countries where abortion is banned, and then start discussing the issue.
PRIME MINISTER CROSSED THE LINE
What is the prime minister trying to imply by saying, “women and men are not equal” and “have at least three children”?
The prime minister said, “women and men are not equal” for the first time in his first and last meeting with women’s organizations at Dolmabahçe in July 2010. He directly challenged the women. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough reaction. The media almost ignored it. So, the prime minister raised the bar a little higher each day. First he said ‘3 children’ and then he mentioned this at an international platform. In the end, he crossed the line; he reached his peak when he said, ‘I’m against abortion’. It was obvious that it would come to this.
Was it wise to mention caesarian issue with abortion?
Of course not. If some people are doing unnecessary caesarian just to make money, I’m against it too. But abortion is a completely different matter, and only women can make decisions about it, not politicians…
VATICAN WOULD LOVE PRIME MINISTER’S WORDS
The prime minister says, ‘There are anti-abortion campaigns and laws in the U.S. There are similar laws in the West.’ Who, do you think, would support these words?
The Vatican. Prime minister’s words would suit to Vatican, and also to Ireland and Malta; both catholic countries. In the east, Egypt might like them. There aren’t any countries in the West to support an anti-abortion statement. It is the U.S., not Europe from where Justice and Development party gets its ideology of ‘conservative democracy,’ which doesn’t have a place in the political literature. ‘Social conservatism’ movement, which climaxed during the Bush era in the U.S. is exactly what Justice and Development party calls ‘conservative democracy.’ Even the Republican Party left this ideology, its only supporter is a marginal group called the Tea Party. But Justice and Development party insists on carrying the flag.
HEALTH REFORM DESTROYED THE FAMILY PLANNING
We would have expected Fatma Sahin to support us women, not the prime minister, we are very disappointed. They closed the Mother and Child Health – Family Planning centers which played a key role in family planning. The related directorship in the Health Ministry is also shut down. Let alone the village women in Anatolia, the women who live in the outskirts of big cities cannot go to see a doctor without accompanied by their husbands, fathers or brothers. Even she is able to see a family doctor how would she request birth control since she is not alone? The new system, which is introduced as a health care reform in Turkey annihilated family planning. Even if a woman is able to see a doctor, reproduction systems are not included in the doctor performance system. They don’t get any money from it. Thus, they might say why I should deal with this. This is clearly politics.
80,000 WOMEN ARE VICTIMS OF ILLEGAL ABORTIONS
*In Turkey, termination of a pregnancy till the end of 10th week by an authorized person is not a crime since 1983.
*This right was protected in the article 99th of Turkish penal code which was amended in 2004.
*Ratified by Turkey, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women opposes legislations to ban abortion or label it as crime.
* In its 2006 Chili report, UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women expressed concerns about abortion being described as crime in Chilean law. It stated that restrictive laws like this might force women to have unsafe and illegal abortions, which are one of the main reasons of mother deaths.
*According to the 1994 UN Cairo Agreement, in countries where abortion is legal, governments are responsible from eliminating the obstacles preventing women from having access to safe abortion.
*According to WHO statistics, 80,000 women lose their lives every year from unsafe abortions in countries where abortion is banned and family planning services are inadequate.
THE COALITION OF SEXUAL AND BODILY RIGHTS IN MUSLIM SOCIETIES
While doing research on honor killings, we realized that these incidents only happen in the Middle East. Bosnia, for example, is a Muslim country but women are not killed there. Honor killings don’t happen in Sub-Saharan African countries either. We founded the coalition in 2001 together with organizations that defend sexual and bodily rights in the Middle East and Northern Africa. In 2004, we couldn’t ignore requests from Southern and Southeastern Asian countries, especially from Indonesia. What they said deeply touched us. They said, ‘we have been forced to accept a concept which is not part of our culture. We need your guidance in order to fight this patriarchal Islamic interpretation exported from the Middle East. We welcomed them to the Coalition. It comprise of 60 organizations from Bangladesh to Egypt and Philistine to Philippines.