Since the early 2000s Turkey has achieved notable improvements in its legislation, including the Constitution, to guarantee gender equality and to ensure non-discrimination against women in all areas. The principle of gender equality in Turkey has been strengthened through the constitutional amendments to Article 41 in 2001, Article 90 in 2004, and Article 10 in 2004 and 2010. While the constitutional amendment to Article 10 in 2004 maintains that women and men have equal rights and the state must ensure that this equality exists in practice, the amendment to the same Article in 2010 prescribes that the measures taken with this purpose cannot be interpreted as a violation of the principle of equality. Through these constitutional amendments Turkey has become one of the few countries in the world, the constitutions of which involve such provisions.

The government and civil society organizations have been the main mechanisms for gender equality issues. In this framework, the establishment of the Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men (Committee) of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNAT) has filled an institutional vacuum to promote gender equality and non-discrimination. The Committee was established with the Act on the Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men, which was adopted on 25 February 2009 and came into force on 24 March 2009. The Committee, as an authorized body of the GNAT, is mainly responsible for protecting and improving women’s rights and promoting equality between women and men.
Both partisan and independent members of the GNAT are represented in the Committee in proportion to their relative number of seats in the Parliament. In this sense, the Committee is one of the few Committees in the GNAT, which can include independent members. As expected, most of the members of the Committee are female members of the Parliament.
The Committee has one chairperson, two vice-chairpersons, one spokesperson, and one secretary. Mrs. Güldal AKŞİT was the first chairperson of the Committee. Mrs. Azize Sibel GÖNÜL has been carrying out this duty since 13 July 2011.

The Committee possesses several competences. The Committee not only debates bills and submits reports on them but also considers applications claiming a violation of the equality between women and men and/or a discrimination based on gender. Moreover, the Committee has the competence to examine social problems, conduct awareness-raising activities, and organize local, national, and international meetings, panels, symposiums etc.

Debating issues referred to the Committee as main or secondary is the primary function of the Committee. The Committee can submit opinions on the bills both as the main committee and secondary committee. The subjects of the bills are mainly, violence against women, violence against children, women’s shelter, maternity leave, the right of women to choose their last names, marriage age, mobbing etc.

Another important function of the Committee is to consider applications related with the claims on violation of the equality between women and men and discrimination based on gender. The petitions may be sent via mail or fax. Moreover, the Committee accepts the applications sent to the e-mail address of the Committee, which is The petitions should involve the subject of the claim as well as the name, address, and signature of the applicant. Most of the time, the Committee forwards the applications to related authorities to solve the problems of citizens. The Committee informs the applicant of the process and result of application within three months.

The subjects of the petitions are mostly on violence against women, early marriages, mobbing, sexual assault against women, sexual abuse of girls, women suicides, women murders, discrimination based on gender on promotion in public bodies, change of last name due to getting married etc.

The Committee establishes subcommittees composed of 5 to 7 members to work on specific subjects, which seem problematic areas and need to be considered in detail. These subcommittees are temporary bodies and work, depending on the subject, generally 3 to 6 months. The subcommittees, like the Committee, have the competence to request information from public administrations and may benefit from the studies of public body and institutions, universities, civil society organizations, and public professional organizations, which are in the field of function of the Committee. The subcommittees invite relevant experts to their meetings and consult with them to find concrete solutions to the subject in question. Moreover, if needed, the subcommittees visit the regions where the problem at hand is widespread.

The subcommittees submit their reports to the Committee at the end of their work and the Committee publishes these reports after accepting them in a Committee meeting. Afterwards, the Committee forwards these reports to related public administrations, universities, and civil society organizations.

The Committee established 5 subcommittees in the previous legislative term. “Early marriages”, “determining deficiencies in the legislation and implementation to prevent violence against women”, “mobbing”, “psychological violence against women due to sex of the child, bride price, traditional marriages”, and “the role of gender equality on our education system” were the subjects of the subcommittees. In this legislative term, there have been 4 subcommittees worked on “the role of media on gender equality”, “constitution in terms of gender equality”, “women employment” and “gender sensitive budgeting”.

Many delegates and groups from local, national and international public institutions and organizations, universities, and civil society organizations visit the Committee from time to time and express their desire to share knowledge and experience in the field and to cooperate with the Committee. In addition, the Committee is shown as a role model by many international organizations, especially by the agencies of the United Nations.

The Committee has taken a leading part in many projects in cooperation with international organizations, public institutions, and civil society organizations. In this framework, the Committee has organized several seminars, panels, symposiums, workshops in order to increase the visibility of the Committee, raise awareness on gender equality issues in society and the Parliament, find solutions to specific women-related problems, educate relevant people on gender equality and legislation process etc.

“Seminar on Empowerment of Women’s NGOs on Participating Legislation Process”, “International Symposium on the Role of the Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men on Providing Gender Equality”, “Education on Gender Mainstreaming to Legislative Experts of the GNAT”, the 32nd  annual meeting of the Parliamentarians for Global Action with the subject of “Empowerment of Women: Building Human Security”, “International Gender Equality Meeting on the Role of the Gender Commissions for a More Equal World”, and “Final Meeting of the Early Marriages Project”, which was executed by an NGO called Flying Broom, are some of the meetings and projects that the Committee supported or organized.

“Joint Program on Fostering an Enabling Environment for Gender Equality in Turkey” is the biggest project the Committee has involved so far, in partnership with UN Women (UNW) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In the context of this two-year project, activities at national and local level will be undertaken in order to internalize social gender equality policies of the Government of the Republic of Turkey and to increase public consciousness in this matter.

Overall objective of the Programme is to foster an enabling environment for greater accountability to women (and men) by strengthening the national gender equality machinery, including the Committee. By strengthening institutional structures and developing their capacities, the project aims at ensuring that gender equality is mainstreamed in legislation processes and policy making and subsequently translated into full-fledged implementation, regularly monitored, evaluated and, if necessary, adjusted.   

The Joint Program is unique in itself since it brings together the executive and legislative branches of State with the aim of strengthening the national and local capacities for ensuring gender equality. Moreover, taking the role of women movement into consideration, the civil society in Turkey is also involved into in the program in order to ensure that the results of the Programme are well achieved. In this respect, the Programme is being implemented with the involvement of all key actors of the gender machinery in Turkey with the leadership of the Committee.