Turkey needs one hundred front pages

I asked a couple of liberal, educated feminist Turkish women about this article. The headline is pretty much the article.

28 percent of women who married in 2016 in Turkey were underage: Study

There is a lot to dislike. No byline and no link to the study, both encouraging a lack of accountability and post-fact-ism. A lot of what Hurriyet seems to be interested in is publishing headlines that generate click throughs with no content thereafter.

They also post a lot of anecdotal stories masquerading as news or breaking news. A lot of “[various possibilities] attacked [various possibilities] in [Turkish city]” — sometimes the first two answers are Syrians and dogs. But it is my contention that a gang of (let’s not give any benefit of the doubt) layabouts kicking some pack of mangy dogs about does not a headline story make. Here is perhaps a better example. They published a photo of a girl and her dog rescuing a goat with three paragraphs underneath, the last of which read:

There is no information about the date of the photo and the location of it remains unconfirmed.

To be honest it is the worst goat rescue story I’ve ever read.

The first Turkish feminist I asked basically wanted to know where the money led. Who funded the study, what was the sample size, etc. Well it turns out a longer, much more detailed, more interesting page is here with more fleshed out results.  And the money is in fact the Turkish government. So they have the power to make answering their questions obligatory by law:

Statistical units [previously described as people, households, institutions] are obliged to submit any information or data fully, accurately and free of charge in the form, period and standards specified by TurkStat Presidency (Statistical Law of Turkey Article 8).

Of course we expect people to give the answers that will cause them the least amount of trouble or will please the surveyor — so figures of underage marriage or forced marriage (3% of total marriages in Turkey according to the full results) are likely underreported.

I asked the second Turkish feminist and she independently contended the figures were likely underreported. Turkish woman can marry at 18 — or at 17 with the permission of their parents. I know feminists have to pick and choose their battles here in Turkey. When I asked if this was one of the battles they often choose, the answer was no.

“They don’t treat it as a woman’s issue, they treat it as a general issue.”

She explained that underage marriages, with women as young as 10 or 11, happen everywhere in the country, but are more prominent in the east, in rural areas, in small villages. Yes it happens and likely those surveyed would underreport it. Many will marry unofficially at 16 say, to register legally a year or two later.

“They make a deal with one another, so the man pays to marry one of his daughters.”

Classic patriarchy. Men raising daughters as assets to sell, children considered property.

“Sometimes the man rapes the girl so that she will be forced to be his wife or else dishonour her family.”

I made a perhaps occidental remark about how such a state of affairs would be on the front page of Canada’s newspapers every day were it the case there.

“Turkey needs one hundred front pages,” was her reply. Pretty good line.

All the conflicts, the upcoming presidency referendum, the economic issues, this is very far down the priority list.

Those who don’t inhabit a community that tolerates such old world patriarchy don’t want to examine those that do for fear of what they’ll find. And those who do inhabit such a community don’t want to be examined.




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