Anti-gender organising in Turkey: from backlash to movement

Turkey has become a textbook example of gender backlash. Hazal Atay explains the structure and strategies employed by the anti-gender movement in Turkey

Gender equality and backlash in Turkey

Gender equality, much like feminism, has been a travelling concept. It has journeyed across geographies, embedding different meanings and historical legacies over time. In Turkey, the republican and secular legacy of the Turkish state have profoundly influenced the progress of women’s rights. However, the rise of feminism in the 1980s ushered in a re-evaluation of this narrative. Feminism expanded gender discourse and analysis beyond its conventional confines, prompting a critical reflection on Turkey's past and future. But feminism also invigorated new debates and intersectional approaches to advancing women's rights and gender equality.

Over the last two decades, feminist movements and groups in Turkey have flourished. Concurrently, we have also seen an escalation in opposition to gender equality. This opposition, often termed 'gender backlash' encompasses various regressive measures aimed at curtailing women's rights and LGBTQI+ rights. It manifests through political polarisation, legislative restrictions, and social stigmatisation.

Opposition to gender equality in Turkey is part of a broader pushback against progressive policies and individual freedoms

In 2020, Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention — an international treaty aimed at combating violence against women. This was not an isolated incident. Opposition to gender equality in Turkey is part of a broader pushback against progressive policies and individual freedoms. It draws inspiration from historically conservative movements, from Turkish organisations, and from anti-gender movements further afield.

Anti-genderism, conservatism and authoritarianism

Over the past decade, Turkey has experienced a surge in conservatism and authoritarianism, particularly under the leadership of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan's AKP has deliberately reignited anti-genderism as a strategic response to the perceived spread of gender equality, which it portrays as a foreign imposition threatening Turkish sovereignty. Meanwhile, anti-gender rhetoric has been promoted as a defence of traditional Turkish values. The government dismisses calls for gender equality as 'LGBTQ propaganda' or as efforts to 'desexualise society'.

Erdoğan's AKP has deliberately reignited anti-genderism as a response to the perceived spread of gender equality which, the party claims, is threatening Turkish sovereignty

Rather than rejecting gender concepts outright, anti-gender movements in Turkey have adopted a pro-family narrative, and focused their attacks instead on LGBTQI+ rights. In 2022, the Unity of Mind and Struggle Platform, along with 150 community organisations, led a Great Family March in Istanbul. The march aimed to rally 'families' against what they termed 'LGBT imposition'. Their stated goal was to safeguard families and future generations.

Most of the organisations involved in the anti-gender movement work on family, children's rights, nationalist youth, education, Islamic virtue and solidarity, justice, and social assistance. Some groups and individuals in this movement, such as the Divorced People and Family Platform and the Indefinite Alimony Victims Platform portray themselves as victims of specific gender reforms. Some of these organisations were established in the 2000s — particularly those focused on family issues. Others have a longer history. Thus, while the opposition to gender equality has grown increasingly visible and vocal in recent years, anti-genderism is certainly not a new phenomenon in Turkey. It is integrated into the discourses and strategies of Turkey's historically conservative movements, and has been rekindled amid the recent rise of conservatism and authoritarianism.

Anti-gender movements: a global sphere of influence

Anti-gender movements across the world are internationally connected. Their rise often coincides with the rise of right-wing politics and populism. Broadly speaking, these movements advocate for traditional gender roles, often in conjunction with conservative ideologies. Their influence extends beyond national borders, with adherents drawing inspiration and tactics from one another.

Anti-gender movements are transnational: Turkey's anti-gender activists take inspiration from similar movements in countries such as Russia and Hungary

While some adherents of Turkey's anti-gender movement have historical ties, it has only recently begun organising as a public movement. Much existing scholarship has focused on anti-gender movements in Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America. Studies show that these movements mirror and cooperate with each other beyond national borders. The adherents of anti-gender movements in Turkey seem to draw on the experiences of movements from other parts of the world. In fact, they explicitly cite other movements and measures enacted against gender equality in countries such as Russia and Hungary, arguing that Turkey should follow in their footsteps.

Understanding the global interconnectedness of anti-gender movements is crucial for counteracting their tactics, and for protecting gender equality worldwide.

This article presents the views of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the ECPR or the Editors of The Loop.


photograph of Hazal Atay
Hazal Atay
Research Assistant, Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Evaluation of Public Policies, Sciences Po Paris

Hazal earned her PhD in political science from Sciences Po Paris.

Her research interests include democratic theory, women's representation and gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights.


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