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Laughter a Threat to Chastity? Yes, Declares Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief
Last Modified: 00:50 a.m. DST, 31 July 2014

Laughing Muslim Woman, Photo by Anuarsalleh

Photo Credit; Anuarsalleh

ANKARA, Turkey — Chastity has long been a source of contention and in fact has often been used as a justification for the domination of women throughout the centuries in various parts of the world. It is another means by which some men seek to control women’s sexuality and reproductive freedom.

Though many people think of the issue of controlling women and forcibly “preserving” their chastity as a phenomenon unique to countries with emerging economies where young girls are routinely subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FMG), these practices have been imported to the U.K. and other E.U. nations with high immigrant populations.

However, the West is not without guilt as similar overt restrictions and unsanitary practices were routinely implemented in Europe during the 16th century when men made their wives wear ‘chastity’ belts to prevent sexual intercourse during their long absences at sea or war.

The history of women being controlled subtly and overtly is a never ending battle; however, this week the war for equality reached ridiculous lows when Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bülent Arınç, stated in a speech that “among other activities that women laughing in public somehow contributed to the moral turpitude of the nation.

During his 28 July 2014 speech which was given on Eid al-Fitr, the official end of the month-long Islamic celebration of Ramadan, “Arınç described his ideal of the chaste man or woman, saying they should both have a sense of shame and honor.” (Source: Hurriyet Daily News)

This atavistic attitude at once casts sexuality as “unclean,” but also blames women for defiling themselves, a specious argument often used to justify rape, while also claiming that these ‘loose’ women constantly lure otherwise chaste men into debauchery and sin. In his speech, Arınç outlined his ideas of morality saying:

“Chastity is so important. It is not only a name. It is an ornament for both women and men. [She] will have chasteness. Man will have it, too. He will not be a womanizer. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.”

These ideas are not Arınç’s alone, but are an outgrowth of the conservative tenor of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of which he is a prominent member. The AKP has been in power since 2002, and in the intervening years has shepherded over a subtle but systematic erosion of women’s rights.

Unbeknownst to many in the West, “Turkey had a thriving women’s rights movement in the 1980s and 90s, but has recently experienced a back slide in progress. Violence against women has doubled over the past few years, only one third of women are employed, and the country rates almost dead last in gender equality in education, health, politics, and the economy.” (Source: Huffington Post)

Women’s rights are being eroded on all fronts from wage equality and reproductive rights in the United States, to FMG in Sub-Saharan Africa, to the ‘One Child Policy’ in China, to chastity requirements in restrictive Middle East nations. Though many in the West and East have greeted Arınç’s comments with derision and mockery, this is no laughing matter.

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About Ayanna Nahmias

Ayanna Nahmias was interviewed on Radio Netherlands Worldwide program titled 'The State We’re In,' about her life in Africa and her determination to transcend her past. She started the Nahmias Cipher Report to provide information to readers about life in emerging economies, and to provide alternative insight into the challenges faced by women and children living in these countries. The blog features stories from around the world to inspire other people to persevere and triumph in the face of great adversity. She blogs about current events in emerging economies, international politics, human rights abuses, women’s rights and child advocacy.

View all posts by Ayanna Nahmias

3 Comments on “Laughter a Threat to Chastity? Yes, Declares Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister”

  1. Bonnie Says:

    I fail to see the comparison of FMG to a chastity belt.

    Reply

    • Ayanna Nahmias Says:

      This article was not written from the perspective of comparative techniques used to control women’s sexuality and reproductive rights specifically, and women’s rights in general. Certainly, FMG is a heinous practice which has no modern equivalent in terms of barbarity, except, as a male reader declared, circumcision.

      This post was written to inform readers of the continued erosion of women’s rights globally, and how this erosion is growing in intensity and magnitude. Many societies have at one time or another implemented dehumanizing, unsanitary, and painful techniques to control women and Western countries are no exception.

      Since we strive for balance, it was appropriate to mention the European device called the chastity belt, and its historical uses for readers who are unfamiliar with it. Many may think of chastity belts only in reference to its use in the BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism and Masochism) community for sexual pleasure; in its original form it was used to control women’s sexuality to horrifying effect because ‘uninterrupted long-term wear could have caused genitourinary infection, abrasive wounds, sepsis and eventual death.’

      When it comes to women’s rights every abuse, each infringement, any loss in gains made should serve as a wake-up call for every woman everywhere. No country or society gets a ‘free pass’ on how it has at one time or another abused women in an attempt to control them, and this has occurred in antiquity as it does in modern times.

      Reply

  2. Anne Says:

    Reblogged this on anne frandi-coory and commented:
    What next for Turkish women?!

    Reply

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