TESEV report suggests lifting headscarf ban in every aspect of social life

April 20, 2012, Friday/ 17:01:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

A report released by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) at the end of this week suggests the headscarf ban should be lifted in all aspects of social and political life, the public sector, state institutions and universities, noting that the continued enforcement of the ban has raised obstacles to women's participation in social and business life.

The headscarf ban at universities has not been fully ended despite the Higher Education Board (YÖK) working to eliminate it in 2010. The report also notes that the ban is not restricted only to universities because women who choose to wear the headscarf continue to face tough challenges in social life and in career advancement. The headscarf ban is prevalent in the public sector, bar associations and in state institutions, the report, prepared by Özge Genç and Ebru İlhan for the foundation, stated.

Earlier this year, discussions flared when a headscarved lawyer's participation in a meeting of the İstanbul Bar Association was denied. She was told her headscarf broke the dress code required to attend the meeting.

The report noted that the continued unofficial ban, which has been retained by a number of professors at universities, has a negative impact on relations between professors and students. According to the report, the individual choices of professors to single out headscarved students deeply affected relations with those students in a negative way. When a professor presents his or her decision to allow a headscarved student into the lecture as a gesture of goodwill and tolerance, this constitutes a negative element in structuring the hierarchical relation between the student and professor.

Several nongovernmental organizations and rights groups have proposed various ways to resolve the headscarf ban, a legacy of the 1997 coup. However, TESEV's suggestions move beyond previous studies by suggesting a total lifting of the ban in the public sphere and at state institutions.

Although the dress code goes into a lot of detail, with, for instance, the length of nails being strictly defined, civil servants are not expected to obey all these rules, the report stated. However, the headscarf ban constitutes the most rigid restriction and is the only dress code item in most cases.

Women who work in the public sector or face threats of being excluded from their profession cite not the articles of the dress code for civil servants but a disciplinary article for civil servants that covers the “violation of peace and quiet and the work order of state institutions using ideological and political aims.” Most women who wear headscarves are expelled from the public sector as a result of this article.

The report finalized its commentary and suggestion by saying that the headscarf ban violates the principles of the Constitution and should therefore be immediately ended.

The report includes the views of ministers, representatives of political parties, lawmakers, members of parliamentary commissions, union leaders, rights group representatives and victims of the headscarf ban. These views address how to lift the ban.

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