Alimony debates in Turkey: Who are the real victims of alimony?

Alimony debates in Turkey: Who are the real victims of alimony?
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Justice Minister's comments on unlimited alimony spark debate on who suffers in Turkey's alimony system. Research shows that women and children face poverty while men pay little.

By Ezgi Yildiz

Recent comments by Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunc on indefinite alimony have sparked a debate in Turkey. Tunc claimed that some men stay married for a day but pay alimony for decades. His comments sparked discussions about the real victims of alimony in Turkey. We examined the laws, statistics, and expert opinions to understand the realities of alimony.

Article 175 of the Turkish Civil Code regulates the right to alimony. It allows the spouse destitute after the divorce to request unlimited alimony from the other spouse based on their financial capacity. The law does not discriminate based on gender. If the spouse receiving alimony finds employment or income, alimony ceases under Article 176.

Contrary to popular belief, research shows that alimony amounts in Turkey are low. A 2019 Women's Solidarity Foundation report found that the average court-ordered alimony amount was only TL 262, with most amounts ranging between TL 0-500. Shockingly, more than 50 percent of alimony awards are never paid.

The report highlights that most divorce cases involve allegations of domestic violence against women. Many women abandon their claims for alimony and compensation to escape the violence and threats quickly. More than 80% of women divorced because of violence did not ask for maintenance.

Statistics explain the realities behind alimony. Labor force participation is much lower for women, only 30.8%, compared to 65.3% for men. After divorce, child custody is awarded to mothers in 75.7% of cases. However, support for childcare in the workplace could be higher, which prevents mothers from working. This leads to poverty and the need for alimony.

Women's rights activists have denounced Minister Tunc's claims that men are the victims of alimony. Lawyer Hulya Gulbahar said research proves that divorced women and children are the real victims, facing poverty while men pay little alimony. Academic Canan Gullu argued that the processes that force women into poverty must be addressed by tackling child marriage and gender inequality.

The debate continues, but currently available data suggests that women and children bear the brunt of poverty and deprivation in Turkey's post-divorce reality. Ensuring women's education, employment, and financial security could provide solutions. But the notion that men are the victims of alimony does not reflect statistical truths. Concrete policy changes that empower women are essential to prevent female poverty in the long run.