Women's rights in Turkey as gauge of its European vocation: The impact of ‘EU-niversal values’
It is often assumed that Turkey’s chance of accession to the EU would be enhanced were the European project to move in an inclusive, cosmopolitan direction. However, the inclusion of women’s rights and post-sexual revolution sexuality in the battery of ‘EU-niversal’ values could still represent an obstacle from the perspective of pro-religious actors in Turkey. This paper examines to what extent Turkish views converge with those expressed in the EU/Europe with regard to two recent debates over criminalisation of adultery, and veiling in public institutions. Based on extensive primary research, it shows that whilst secularists of all ideological backgrounds agree with the EU/European position, there is some ambivalence in Islamist perspectives. This was evident only in a limited fashion with the adultery debate. However, European Court of Human Rights verdicts upholding a secularist ban on veiling engendered deep disappointment in many Islamists, spurring some to conclude that ‘EU-niversal’ and Islamic values are incompatible. The ongoing tension between the religious actors and the secularists is a battle fought over women’s bodies. That is why, the women question in Turkey is a good yardstick to measure the extent to which Turkey has embraced EU-niversal values.
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