“Irritated Men”: the Role of Male Allies in Turkey

Recent protests in Turkey spurred from proposed anti-abortion and maternal rights legislation by the government, highlights more than just the importance of women’s rights. The Turkish citizen uprising against the proposal demonstrates the power of allies in the feminist movement.

The end of May 2012 found Turkey’s Health Care Minister proposing the decrease of allotted days before an abortion becomes illegal. As of 1983, abortion has been legal in Turkey. Women have been able to have an abortion up to 10 weeks after conception. The recent proposal suggests decreasing that time to only four weeks. Before talk of this legislation began, Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Edrogan publicly announced that he sees abortion as murder, “Either you kill a baby in a mother’s womb or after birth, there is no difference.”

In addition to amendments to abortion laws, the Health Care Minister proposed a penalty for hospitals that allow elective cesareans, with the rational that women who have cesareans can only have two children, while Edrogan suggests that women should have 5 to promote economic development.

Needless to mention, this upset many female Turkish citizens. As one woman says, “It is a big decision to be made by a mother, it is ridiculous for the government to have say in this.” Thousands of women of all ages rallied in Istanbul on Sunday June 3rd. Banners and slogans read “My body, my choice,” “I am a woman not a mother, don’t touch my body,” and “Tayyip it is non of your business.”

Although disappointing yet unsurprising, the public reaction would leave one hopeful and the outcome is promising because, the protests against the government’s proposed policies aren’t just being supported by women but also Turkish men.

They call themselves the “Irritated Men” and they are male allies that are speaking up against the proposed government plans to change abortion laws and maternal health regulations. The group’s spokesperson Orhan Cerav said, “Public opposition by a male front is badly needed. That’s why we gathered. It’s not just women; men are also irritated by the government’s anti-abortion campaign, but we also should show it.” The Irritated Men and other male supporters and women took to the streets again on Sunday, June 10th.

Similar news stories are heard from various parts of the world including countries in North America. This however, is one of the few times that the media recognized male allies organizing against oppressive gender based policy and actively supporting women’s rights issues. There is often an unspoken assumption that women’s rights only effect women, and is only a woman’s concern.  The Irritated Men are a group that sheds light on the importance and power of collective support and the necessity of male allies to ensure gender equality. Imagine what our world would look like if there were more “irritated men” and the rest of us knew about them.

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