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Year: 2013 Type: Book Chapter Language: English

Seral Aksakal details the policing of women’s sexualities, which extends from violence by the state through to that of measures taken by family members, especially older women, to constrain and contain younger women. In Turkey, as in so many contexts, women lack information and education about sexuality. This allows myths to thrive. Combined with a conservative political context, this further undermines women’s capacity to enjoy pleasurable sexual relationships, acting as a quiet form of violence that permeates society and exerts a powerful oppressive influence in women’s – and men’s – lives, and negative social messages about sexuality make it difficult for women to have enjoyable sexual relationships. In this chapter, Seral-Aksakal discusses WWHR’s (an autonomous human rights NGO based in Turkey) four-month training on human rights which aims to empower women in a broad sense. It includes two modules on sexuality that talk about ‘sexual pleasure as a woman’s human right’. These modules include ‘the basic rights to know and like one’s sexual organs, the right to seek sexual experiences independent of marital status, the right to orgasm, the right to expression and pursuit of sexual needs and desires, and also the right to choose NOT to experience one’s sexuality’. These modules come in the 9th and 10th week after the women have already built up mutual trust, and had space to discuss sexual and other violence, sexually transmitted infections, and reproductive rights. The modules on sexual pleasure are overwhelmingly the most popular. The programme has been running since 1993 and over 10,000 women have been trained to date. Impacts on participants range from reduction in domestic violence to greater participation in the labour market, as well as better sex.

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