Turkish parliament approves civil code revisions

Friday, November 23, 2001

ANKARA, Turkey -- Parliament formally recognized Turkish men and women as equals Thursday under a series of revisions to the civil code.

The changes, which take effect Jan. 1, came after a month of debate on 1,030 new articles.

"This symbolizes a historic turning point," the Flying Broom women's rights group said in a statement after the final vote. "Our country is closer to achieving the goal of equality between women and men."

The previous code, virtually unchanged since it was introduced in 1926, had designated the husband as head of a family and gave the wife no say in decisions concerning home or children. The new code gives men and women equal roles in family matters.

Previously, in a divorce women were entitled only to property legally registered under their names. Now, property and assets are to be divided equally. At the same time, men will be able to seek alimony from wives.

Under the previous code, a woman had to seek her husband's permission to work outside the home, although a court voided that provision in 1994. The new code makes clear a wife does not need her husband's consent to get a job.

1926 code

Turkey's secular government adopted the previous code from Swiss family law, replacing the old Ottoman system that, among other things, allowed a man to have more than one wife and to repudiate a wife no longer in favor.

The 1926 code was considered revolutionary for a Muslim country when it was adopted, but it failed to keep up with changes in women's roles in modern society.

"Turkey at the start of the 21st century has renewed the great legal reform it achieved in 1926," Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk said.

In other areas, the new code raises the legal age for marriage to 18 from 17 for men and 15 for women.

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