They want women to accept to be slaves to men and give up their demands for right “in order not to give way to LGBTI+”, – on the other hand, the government should continue with the phrase “of course we don’t have a problem with women’s rights”.
“The family consists of man and woman” – is it? When I was growing up, my elementary family, what I knew as family, consisted of my mother and grandmother (as we call her ‘nonna’). Of course, after my mother, my nonna and me, my aunt, cousins, father, uncle, and grandfather also came, but these two women were the ones who always existed, the ones who cared, the ones who made rules, the first ones that would come to my mind when I was in trouble, and the ones visualized when I said family. And the friends I grew up with, whom I see as siblings. Now the number of my families has increased a bit – or rather, it has become crowded with forms of relationships that do not fit and do not have to fit into the concept of family. On the one hand, I have my mother and aunt (nonna no longer exists, but I still have a family of two women) —and I have to hand it to, sometimes, my father a bit— on the other hand, I have another kind of solidarity network: A group of feminist women (some of them may or may not have been in love with each other at the time or still) numbering between 10 and 30. In one way or another, we keep each other alive. What about the family of man and woman? Of course, this is just my story. But if there is one thing I know, it is that there are as many different types of families as there are people on the street. And this is true not only for “marginals” like me, but for society as a whole. For some of us, the family is a wide network of relationships, consisting of many men and women (and others who are stuck in this duality, trying to exist with their own gender identity and sexual orientation, perhaps openly or implicitly) in complex ties of kinship; for some of us it consists of a single person; for some of us, instead of family there are friendships we make while trying to survive outside of family – let alone the gender binary mold, it doesn’t fit into any mold or singular definition.
It seems that we are in a debate on constitutional amendment again. The issue that started with the introduction of legal and then constitutional guarantees for the headscarf –that is, with a discussion of freedom– quickly turned into a new field of domination. Article 41 of the Constitution was quickly included alongside the proposed amendment to Article 24 of the Constitution, which regulates the “freedom of religion and conscience”. In its current form, Article 41 of the Constitution states that “Family is the foundation of Turkish society and is based on equality between spouses”. Now, it is said that since the phrase “between spouses” is “ambiguous”, the definition of “family consists of man and woman” will be introduced. Therefore, the argument that no secular or religious patriarchal institution should interfere with women’s clothing, freedom to cover or not, turns into a tool of intervention through another institution: the family.
As we have seen in the process of withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention, in line with the anti-gender wave that is making itself felt all over Europe and globally, “family values” work to achieve two goals simultaneously. On the one hand, it shapes society and politics along an anti-LGBTI+ line, making a heterosexist, binary-based order eternal. On the other hand, it instrumentalizes LGBTI+phobia, which it has built the social contract almost on it, which it has popularized, legitimized and socialized by considering it inherent to society, for the construction of consent in every field. In other words, we are willing to be robbed, silenced, deprived of our rights, as long as it is struggled against this nondescript “bogeyman” LGBTI+, which constitutes a “threat to our existence”. Really? One of the most important issues in which this so-called approval mechanism is operated is the preservation of women’s forever exploitable secondary status (because, just as the Constitution’s statement ‘There are no LGBTI+ families’ does not make us disappear, it is not enough for equality to say ‘family is built on equality’), as unpaid workers – their labor, body and sexuality in the family. They want women to accept to be slaves to men, give up their demands for right “in order not to give way to LGBTI+”, – on the other hand, the government should continue with the phrase “of course we don’t have a problem with women’s rights”.
The most basic form of accumulation provided by patriarchy to capitalism is its benefit from women’s labor which is unpaid and without limitation of time etc. and trying to make women partners in this order under the name of “family” – or rather, being able to minimize the objection with this approval mechanism. In fact, as a form of power, it can show what is necessary for its own continuity as if it is something we want, as if it is for our benefit. To make women as a category so exploitable, patriarchy needs a binary gender system, heterosexism. In this sense, patriarchy is the main source of both heterosexism and cissexism – as the boundaries between gender roles and identities become blurred, so does the line of sovereignty. At that point, the patriarchal family collapses. In other words, just as the ignorance of LGBTI+s and exploitation of women feed each other, the liberation of women and the liberation of LGBTI+s is only possible together in real terms. The phrase “family values” also serves to block not just one, but both. If one part of the need for the phrase “the family consists of a man and a woman” is to outlaw any other form of existence and family (because we don’t know about it, but since so much effort is being made to ban it, it is clear that gay marriage is legal in Turkey), the other part is based on the assumption that “the family is based on the fact that women serve men”. We need feminism –of course, a non-cissexist feminism– to see this connection, to realize that after the phrase “the family consists of man and woman”, the claim “based on equality” fails because this binary already exists to make that equality impossible, and to build the struggle on this basis. This part is our (I mean feminist and LGBTI+ movements) responsibility. But in this matter, not only us, but also the opposition in the country has an important responsibility.
After the one nation, one flag, one homeland, one state, one language, one religion, with the latest constitutional amendment “one man”, what the government that now confronts us with a “one family” does not understand is that: We, whom all this oneness is not enough to define and demarcate, continue to exist. That “one family” which offers men a monopoly on violence against women is losing ground. Just as we do not disappear when LGBTI+s are said to be non-exist, we do not stop forming a family or creating non-family relationships with each other when it is claimed that we are not a family. It is interesting that something that is already illegal cannot be banned exactly like that. This applies to countless family types, from those who grew up with a single parent to extended families, from those based on kinship to those not formed by blood or marriage ties, whether they are LGBTI+ or not. Then the question is: Can the family, which is such a multitude of relationships, be defined by law or constitution? Here it is not a bond of love that the law tries to define and make one, but a relation of domination, a category of governance, namely the family as a means of making society manageable. If it is a category of governance, one must ask: Who is governed in whose interest? Different answers are possible: individuals are in the interest of the state, women are in the interests of men, sexuality, gender identities and roles are in the interest of the male-dominated system. In other words, it is the power (in every sense: political power, male power, etc.) whose continuity is maintained through the family.
On the other hand, it is reminded that who does not even have the “right to have rights” through this constitutional debate. As the text that defines the rights and freedoms of the citizen and who is the citizen that has these rights and freedoms, the Constitution also declares to us who is not fully considered a citizen. In a way, this is not new. But now it is being proposed that the Constitution should determine not only who is a citizen, but also who is a family member, because it is desired that as a society, we should not be citizens, but family members, and that we should know our place within that family. Thus, let us be governed by grace and prohibition, not by right and freedom. Defining in the Constitution who the family should consist of and entitling equality only for those who fit this definition is the epitome of discrimination – “all animals are equal, but some are more equal”, right? This makes possible an order in which those who do not, cannot or do not want to be members of the defined family do not have access to citizenship and human rights, and therefore are not considered fully human. This poses a vital problem for those who are “not counted”, because we become violable in every aspect. The fact that even the right to life of LGBTI+s can be disregarded is the result of this. On the other hand, there is the issue of legitimizing violence against women who move away from violence and oppression in “acceptable families” and normalizing the lack of access to social rights and security.
In any case, it is certain that one of the important areas of struggle in this election process will be the institution of “family” — based on the control of women and the ignorance of LGBTI+s. We will talk about “threats to the family” while natural gas prices skyrocket; we will discuss ‘how to preserve the family’ while we freeze in our homes. In the face of this, the opposition has two options: either it can throw the ball out of bounds by saying that a constitution cannot be made without a transition to a parliamentary system, or it can advocate a wide variety of family or relationships, love, solidarity forms (emphasizing, of course, that equality should be based), which already exist in society, without “fearing” to include sexual orientations and gender identities, but without only limiting with it. Because as the content of this constitutional amendment shows, if one of the breaking points of the debate is whether the bonds of love and solidarity can be limited to the family, another is how the family will be defined and who holds the power and authority to define it.
Translator: Gülcan Ergün
Proof-reader: Müge Karahan