International Women’s History Month begins at a critical juncture in Turkey’s history. Turkey aims to join the European Union, and has sought support from countries like Germany and the United States. Before this induction can be made, however, it is crucial that policymakers look upon the ways in which Turkey has and has not complied to the EU’s guidelines on combating discrimination and violence against women. In the past decade, Turkey has made major policy changes that have benefitted women, but new, proposed legislation may deeply limit the access of women to reproductive care and contraception. The legislation does not formally ban abortion, but it gives doctors the options to deny patients due to their own conscience and also mandates that women have a set amount of time to think before requesting the termination. The controversy surrounding this topic is being discussed in the media due to recent events related to the issue of female empowerment and rape in Turkey and Germany, a country in which many Turkish citizens migrate. The fight for Turkish women's rights is especially important because they are untapped vessels in Turkey's modernization efforts.

Turkish businesswomen have gained more access to funding to become entrepreneurs. While many organizations assert that more banks need to help these women, a number of banks and NGOs have made the commitment to help fund female business owners through the microfinance industry. Legally, women are politically equal. Despite this, there is a headscarf ban within the country that limits women’s political freedoms. The reasoning behind it has lofty goals. The president that enacted this ban, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk emphasized that the country cannot progress because “Humankind is made up of men and women; if one half of a whole is chained to earth, how can the other half soar?” His words attempt to encapsulate his desire for an egalitarian society in regards to gender. However, his words run in opposition to women’s freedom of choice to wear what they please. This statement, rather, is apropos in demonstrating how societies must make quality of life balance for men and women in order to reach their modernization potentials. At present, these efforts are hindered because Turkey is under-utilizing women as a resource and not providing adequate protections for women's reproductive health and violence against women.

Turkish women face many hindrances with regards to the lives in their Turkey and when creating new homes for themselves and their families abroad. In Turkey, women stand to lose protections due to new legislation that many fear will limit women’s reproductive choices. If this legislation were to pass, many women, including those raped or facing unwanted pregnancies, would lose access to having safe, low complication abortions. This ongoing debate is not unique to Turkey. Many countries, including the United States, have reached no conclusion regarding what entails a woman’s reproductive rights. Something must be done, especially when men can get away with violent crimes against these women. Even travelling women in Turkey have been subject to violence. On February 2013, a New York woman was found murdered in Istanbul. Her death was caused by a blow to her head, and still has not been fully explained.

Germany has a large portion of Turkish migrants. As such, securing rights for these women within Germany remains a prominent issue as well. German authorities have been alerted to a phenomenon called honor killings. These killings are traditional in certain countries if a woman shames her family. In that event, male family members will seek out this female and kill her. This problem has been presented to audiences within Hisham Zaman’s film “Before Snowfall”. The man character is faced with the task of bringing his sister home because she had fled an arranged marriage. If she chooses not to return, he must kill her. This is not the only movie that explores such a cultural tradition. During Berlin’s film festival Berlinale, which ran earlier in February, one notable film, “Jin” premiered during its opening days. The film follows the path of Kurdish woman named Jin. Within the movie, Jin is a conscripted soldier in a Kurdish group hiding in the mountains in Turkey. She is trained in combat and travels through the wilderness in an attempt to be reunited with her family. However, along the way, she meets natural barriers and people that seek to rape and hurt her. Jin cannot legally travel by bus because she has no political rights or travel papers. As a result, she must subject herself to dangerous conditions in order to journey home.

While she belongs to the Kurdish ethnic group, her heroic story is a commentary on the status of protections that women have in Turkey. Now may be the most advantageous time for women’s rights to be debated in Turkey and other countries with large Turkish populations. For women in Turkey, there also seems to be little repercussions for rapists and those that act violently towards women. Most recently, a Turkish woman, Nevin Yildirim, was raped, and became pregnant with the child of her rapist. In retaliation, she shot and decapitated her rapist. She currently awaits trial. While I do not condone violence by any means, this situation displays the dire situation many women in Turkey find themselves in. Within many media outlets, her story has renewed the debate surrounding Turkish legislation that may alter the reproductive rights of women in Turkey.

In February 2013, Fatih Nerede, a rapist and burglar, was released from prison after he raped a woman in front of her three year-old child. His release occurred solely due to the fact that the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Turkey could not determine whether the victim suffered emotional damage after the incident. This is unacceptable, and a major setback for the women’s rights movement in the country.

While mobilization efforts have not been formulated on a large scale with regards to rape in Turkey, political activists and bloggers have come together to decry attempts to restrict access to contraception for women. The “My Body, My Decision” campaign has been the beacon of protests. Turkish Internet forums have also been used to feature videos that showcase the importance of freedom of choice. These outcries demonstrate how Turkey needs to revitalize the efforts to support women throughout the country, because they are a lucrative resource that could further jumpstart the country’s modernization efforts.