Populism,Gender and Feminist Politics: Between Backlash and Resistance, Florence, Italy, 10 - 11 December 2020, pp.1-2
GENDER POLITICS UNDER AUTHORITARIAN POPULISM IN TURKEY: FROM THE EQUAL RIGHTS AGENDA TO AN ANTI-GENDER STRATEGY?
This paper has the objective of analyzing the gendered transformation of the conservative populist government of the JDP (Justice and Development Party) in Turkey which has politicized gender equality issues through specific mobilization strategies over the past decade. At the time of its electoral rise in Turkish politics back in 2002, the JDP projected a ‘conservative democratic identity’ and implemented a reform agenda which also addressed the concerns of women’s organizations about gendered discriminations. However, in the context of a democratic backsliding which substantially weakened the reform process, institutions and which Turkish polarized politics since 2011, the government’s populist strategies and discourses has also dominated its approach to gender issues and women’s quest for solutions to existing challenges to equality. Research on the JDP’s gender policy has so far focused on its Islamic vision and the consolidation of a neoliberal patriarchal gender regime through the transformation of social policies. It is underlined in this paper that the new populist regime of polarizing and exclusionary discourses and institutional transformations have epitomized a (neo) -patrimonial mode of governance and mobilization with significant repercussions for reorienting gender policies. The promotion of a conservative gender order summed up in the motto of ‘‘strong families, empowered women’’ has recently been transformed into a conservative backlash with an anti-gender agenda. This paper analyzes both the discursive mobilization strategies and the leading institutional pillars of the gender populism of the government (specifically, the Directorate for Religious Affairs, andthe Ministry of Family). The analysis also reflects on the resistance strategies of women’s and feminist groups to the new anti-gender agenda threating women’s rights. The research is based on the analysis of the primary and secondary documents on the government policy and discourses, published interviews and debates on controversial issues as well as the policy documents and projects and their coverage in both pro-government and critical/liberal media outlets.