Take note, women: if you chuckled in public at this headline, you are apparently bringing about the collapse of civilization. This according to Bülent Arınç, the deputy prime minister of Turkey, who indicated as much in a speech on Monday that has been widely criticized as both sexist and ridiculous.
During a speech on Monday, Arınç said that, among other activities, women should not laugh in public if they are to adhere to proper social mores. The speech was given on Eid al-Fitr, the official end to the month-long Islamic celebration of Ramadan. In his speech, Arınç outlined his ideas of morality saying:
Chastity is so important. It is not only a name. It is an ornament for both women and men. [She] will have chasteness. Man will have it, too. He will not be a womanizer. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.
Arınç also scrutinized youth-centered TV shows, which he says encourage teens to become “sex addicts,” and cell phones, which women use to talk “unnecessarily” to each other. “Women give each other meal recipes while speaking on the mobile phone. ‘What else is going on?’ ‘What happened to Ayşe’s daughter?’ ‘When is the wedding?’ Talk about this face to face,” he said.
This patriarchal perspective transcends Arınç’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) which has governed Turkey for the past 12 years. In 2013, another party member went on a sexist tirade against a group of female reporters after a picture of him sleeping in the Parliament’s garden was published in a local newspaper. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is vying for the presidency, once told a room full of women’s right organizations: “I don’t believe in equality between men and women.”
As the Huffington Post notes, Turkey had a thriving women’s rights movement in the 1980s and 90s, but has recently experienced a backslide in progress. Violence against women has doubled over the past few years, only one third of women are employed, and the country rates almost dead last in gender equality in education, health, politics, and the economy.
In 2011, Erdoğan replaced the one Turkish ministry specifically focused on women’s rights with the “Ministry of Family and Social Policies” which places women’s issues as merely a subcategory within the new division. This department also handles issues related to the country’s children, elderly, disabled, and families of soldiers who have died in action. Human Rights Watch at the time called the move a backward step for women’s rights in Turkey.
Erdoğan’s political opponents quickly seized on Arınç’s comments to lambaste the ruling party. “If a man can think only this way in a bayram day, then this mentality has a problem,” said Burhan Şenatalar, deputy chair of the Republican People’s Party, AKP’s political rival, in response to Arınç’s comments. “Tayyip Erdoğan has the same mentality problem.”
On Twitter, Pervin Buldan of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, tweeted: “From now on, we will respond to all statements by Arınç by laughing.”
Shannon Greenwood is an intern at ThinkProgress.