We read from the news in the media in recent days that the AKP is once again working to limit women’s right to alimony. It is very clear that AKP which covets not only the right to alimony but also other vested rights of women and withdraws the Istanbul Convention with a night decree, is a party of men, not women in this arrangement.
The Turkish Civil Code, which is the Turkish translation of the Swiss Civil Code, was accepted in the Parliament in 1926. While no changes were made in other parts of this law during the translation, for some reason, various changes were made in the Family Law section to the detriment of women on issues such as property regime, surname and alimony. While there is no time limit for divorced women to receive alimony in the Swiss Civil Code, a one-year time limit was introduced when this law was adapted to Turkey. This one-year limitation was repealed with an amendment to the law in 1988, as it increased the poverty of divorced women.
Women who are denied access to education and careers within the family and throughout their marriage, who are not allowed to work by their husbands, or who cannot be employed for years because they have to take care of the house and children, become even poorer after divorce. Women who have worked for years in domestic and unpaid works can only find jobs with very low wages and precarious employment after divorce. Women who have children at a young age cannot start working after divorce, as there are no free and accessible kindergartens where they can leave their children during working hours. Men, who live lives based on the unpaid labor of women, making up various kinds of lies in order not to pay alimony to women after their divorce and organizing under names such as Men Who are the Victims of Alimony, Divorced Fathers, Family Assemblies, want to stomp on the domestic labor and care given by women for years, to use all kinds of economic violence legitimately, and to usurp the vested rights of women.
According to the Poverty Alimony File prepared by Konda Research in 2020, while a large part of the society, such as 76 percent, argues that the divorced husband should pay alimony to the woman as long as she needs if she has no financial possibility in case of divorce, we see that the government supports the demand of a small marginal group of men for the legalization of economic violence against women. The fact that the time limit for alimony is among the recommendations on Family Law of the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s Parliamentary Research Commission Report on “Investigating Factors Affecting Family Unity Negatively and Divorce Events and Determining the Measures to be Taken to Strengthen the Family Institution” which is a road map of the government’s attacks on women’s rights –it should be noted that the attacks we are now encountering have taken a much more dangerous dimension– shows us that this issue has been on the agenda of the AKP since 2016.
Since 2016, as a result of the support of the so-called victim men by the government, there have been many news that efforts have been made to restrict the right to alimony, that alimony will be as far as the marriage duration and that it will be limited to periods of 1 to 5 years, and the authorities such as Minister of Justice and the Minister of Family, Labor and Social Services made statements on the issue. After the Divorce Commission Report, only two of the independent women’s organizations working in the field for years were invited to the “Agenda Meetings: Alimony System” workshop organized by the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services and the Ministry of Justice in October 2018. Although many feminist women’s organizations that were aware of the workshop requested to participate, only the Purple Roof Women’s Shelter Foundation was invited to the workshop.
In February 2019, the Head of the 2nd Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, Ömer Uğur Gençcan, made the following statement at a meeting organized by the Karabük Bar Association:
“You took away the 80-year-vested rights of men. I am the judge; I will tell the truth. I will decide according to my conscience. Heaven knows why, it’s turned into an unlimited duration. Now there are those who have published some notices with compassion; ‘It is not true that it is unlimited.’ It’s like we’re cheating! There is, of course, the case that it is not unlimited. ‘She can’t get it when the man dies.’ Of course, you won’t get it. Will the heirs of the deceased give it to you? Look, you see, it’s limited… ‘It ends when he dies.’ Well of course it will end dear… ‘It ends when she remarries.’ Of course, it will be over. You marry a stranger, and I will continue to pay you… You live namelessly with a stranger, and I will send you your drink money every night… Is there such a thing? Is it possible to say, ‘This is limited’ by exemplifying them? Of course, these situations will end. If this does not happen, if your husband does not die, if you are not on the streets, if you do not marry, you get it until you die. I have not been able to accept that this alimony has been unlimited since 1988. I slept with someone and you slept with someone. I give you a lifetime alimony… I spat, you spat. Alimony for a lifetime. Can something like this happen?”
Ömer Uğur Gençcan, who, as the Head of the 2nd Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, should be objective and not express his opinion on the cases he is handling unless legally required, insulted the labor and lifestyle of women with this statement. Contrary to Ömer Uğur Gençcan’s words, although alimony can be given for an unlimited duration, it is not unlimited.
Article 175 of the Civil Code states that the spouse who shall become impoverished due to divorce is entitled to request the other spouse to pay alimony in proportion to his/her own financial power for an indefinite period of time, and it does not specify gender. In other words, men can also claim alimony. Gender inequality lies behind the fact that alimony is paid more to women in practice. In order for the alimony to be paid, there is a condition for the person to become impoverished as a result of divorce, and if the conditions of the person who became impoverished change or he/she remarries, the alimony is not paid anymore. Women, who have been working unpaid domestically for years, have to undertake care work, cannot work in paid jobs, and do not have equal conditions in accessing education and employment, are generally the party that receives alimony because they are poorer due to the social conditions we live in.
Moreover, although it is intended to create the perception that there are a lot of divorced women who are enjoying themselves with their alimony and prefer to receive alimony instead of working, in fact, the amount of alimony paid is not enough to save women from poverty or to make a living. Men prevent the adjudication of alimony or minimize its amount by means of showing their income below the minimum wage, working informally or passing their assets on to others. According to the “Alimony Research” conducted by the Ankara Women’s Solidarity Foundation in 2019, 66.4 percent of the alimony ordered is between 0-500 TL and the average amount is 262 TL. The average amount of alimony ordered by the courts for all intervals is only 370 TL. Only 20.7 percent of the adjudged alimony is paid. In addition, although the reasons for divorce vary, there is violence against women in the examined cases with a large extent of 82.9 percent.
The regulation, which has the risk of being brought to the parliament these days, focuses on three different options, according to the news reflected in the press. The first of these is to limit alimony to the duration of marriage, the second to limit it between 1-5 years, and the third to limit it to half of the duration of the marriage. It is also said that the state will create a fund and alimony will be paid by the state after the end of the period to be determined.
Does the state pay alimony? The duty of the state should not be to pay alimony, but to eliminate the conditions that require the payment of alimony. The reason why women put so much effort and fight to get the alimony they could not collect is the necessity of this income for them. If the state provides the necessary and sufficient support to the already divorced women, a system can be established in which women do not bother with trying to collect alimony and the need to receive alimony from men disappears, without making any changes in the existing law. However, we see that the idea of the state giving alimony in the name of men instead of creating an order in which alimony is not needed is emphasized. In fact, this is exactly similar with AKP’s social assistance policies. While the state distributes social assistance to its citizens in need, it must also fight poverty by ensuring the social rights of people and households receiving social assistance, and by implementing policies that will prevent them from needing social assistance. However, instead of producing policies to eradicate poverty, AKP created an order in which it made the needy dependent on itself through social assistance. It prided on how much social assistance it distributed instead of reducing poverty. In fact, the Ministry of Family and Social Policies allocated more than 80 percent of its budget to social assistance. Precisely from this point of view, it does not see a difference between providing social support and giving alimony; it wants women to live in need instead of being able to establish a life independent from men, family and the state.
As the economic crisis deepens, abolishment of the alimony obligation on men by the state that does not provide adequate social assistance and support to divorced women, does not provide secured employment, does not provide free and accessible day care centers for their children, and even sees free public day care centers as a damage to the treasury, will make women who become impoverished and expose to economic violence with divorce, even poorer and more vulnerable to violence. This change, which is intended to be made at a time when the treasury is being emptied more and more, during the economic crisis we are in, means that it takes the alimony obligation from men and puts the burden of the economic crisis on women, making women even more impoverished, even when it is unclear whether the state has the resources to pay this fund. The duty of the state is not to usurp women’s rights by limiting alimony, but to implement policies that will eliminate gender inequality, strengthen the position of women in the home and family, pave the way for them not to be sentenced to marriage, family and male violence, facilitate their participation in paid jobs, gain their economic independence and benefit from education equally, and to take measures to eliminate inequalities. The solution to the alimony problem is not to abolish men’s alimony payment obligations, but to create and implement policies that ensure gender equality, that resolve women’s need for alimony, and that transform the sexist division of labor in the home and prevent women’s poverty.
For the original in Turkish / Yazının Türkçesi için
Translator: Gülcan Ergün
Proof-reader: Müge Karahan