Women attack Turkey adultery law
By Clare Doyle
BBC News

Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 21:21 GMT 22:21 UK


Turkish women
Women's groups say the proposed law is a step backwards

Women's rights organisations in Turkey have denounced a bill proposed by the government to make adultery a crime.

The governing Justice and Development party (AKP) says it will submit the bill to parliament next month.

The main opposition party says it will not challenge it, provided men face the same penalties as women.

The move appears to contradict Turkey's recent efforts to bring its legal code into line with European human rights legislation.

The Turkish Justice Minister, Cemil Cicek, says the government wants to make adultery a crime because that is how society regards it.

It is true that particularly in rural areas, there is a strong social stigma attached to extramarital sex.

Turkey's constitutional court threw out a previous law criminalising adultery in the 1990s, saying that it was being used against women far more than against men.

Strict rules

Sociologists say any new law is likely to be applied in the same way.

But conservatives argue that this merely reflects the fact that a woman's adultery is more shameful for a family than a man's.

The government says it has been asked to introduce this legislation by its core conservative supporters, including women, who mainly live in rural areas and abide by strict social rules.

The Turkish government has passed several reform packages over the past year, aimed at bringing legislation on minority rights and the treatment of prisoners into line with European countries, to boost Turkey's chances of joining the EU.

Women's groups argue that criminalising adultery runs counter to all these efforts and is a step backwards for Turkey's image as a modern, secular state.