What do the local elections in Turkey mean for the representation of women and the LGBTQ community?

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At the end of March, Turkey held local elections with victory for the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the party of the current Prime Minister, Erdogan. Surprisingly enough, the number of female mayors rose by 30%, with one notably receiving the highest recorded proportion of the vote in a mayoral election where both men and women were running. Women were also seen for the first time in metropolitan municipalities. This local election was also the first time the LGBTQ community actively engaged in mainstream politics. The community gained one seat on a municipal council. Apparently, this is because the increasing number and influence of LGBTQ NGOs has improved how seriously the Turkish population views them.

These gains are undeniably steps in the right direction. However, they are only small steps. There is no room for complacency. Only 37 of 1395 mayors were female, a measly 2.22%, which explains why a leading women’s organisation, KADER, described the election results as a “victory for men, once again”. Also, only two political parties welcome LGBTQ candidates and this does not include the main party, AKP, which continues to promote conservative values and morals including traditional family structures so it is hard for LGBTQ candidates to become involved in the political arena. These facts lead Diba Nigar Goksel, an Al Jazeer journalist, to conclude that the results are hardly reason to celebrate as they make it clear that the political domain remains dominated by the social conservatives and their patriarchal conceptions of society.

The lack of females and LGBTQ representatives in politics across the world is disappointing for advocates of equality. In the British 2010 general election, 22% of MPs were female and a huge majority of these are Labour MPs. Countries who top the table of female representation have 40% women in their legislature, still less than the percentage of the population of the world who are female, which is roughly 50%. However, Britain and Turkey, amongst many other countries, should definitely follow the example of these countries, which include Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands as they are sucessfully moving female political representation in the correct direction. The statistics for LGBTQ are much harder to identify, but in the British Parliament only two MPs identify themselves as lesbian and fifteen as gay.

Ultimately all across the world equality for women and the LGBTQ community remains a serious issue, but it is definitely positive that Turkey is moving towards more representation in politics for these groups. Hopefully having more women and LGBTQ representatives involved in local politics will assure the doubters in Turkey of the capabilities of these groups in the political arena. This in turn will encourage more and more people to vote for the female and LGBTQ candidates and not discriminate against them due to their gender or sexual orientation. The next election in Turkey will be the real test for the success of this move towards equality.

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