A basic right in a fully functioning democracy based on the supremacy of law is that individuals and social groups have the freedom to initiate personal and social change. In other words, it requires that citizens play an active and transformative role in their relationship with the system’s decision-making mechanisms (i.e., the state) and not a subservient and passive one, the prevalent climate being one of respect for rights. Individuals need to internalize and develop a critical understanding of their rights before they can embrace and exercise them. Turkey is still in the process of establishing a system where individuals can thus benefit from the rule of law and contribute towards a democracy. Gender discrimination and the patriarchal nature of our society render this situation even more crucial for women. There are very few social services and programs that enable women to translate the legal rights they have gained since the founding of the Republic from the written page into everyday life.
The favorable conditions resulting from equal rights in the legal field were unfortunately turned to disadvantage through the widely-held belief that the problems of equality were solved at the founding of the Republic. This idea was so engrained that it took 75 years to change the Civil Code of 1926. Until 20-25 years ago, it was considered a luxury, at least in intellectual circles, to monitor, articulate or wish to remedy the inadequacies in the law, its administration and the pain and discrimination many encountered in daily life.
The lives of many women today are still shaped by social and religious customs instead of constitutional rights and the Civil Code. However, the demand and resolve to change this reality now makes its presence strongly felt. Women for Women’s Human Rights-New Ways works both to target lawmakers and decision-making processes and to help women gain an awareness of their rights and to put these rights into practice.