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Are Japan’s women’s universities to set an example for Turkey?

President of Turkey and chairperson of ruling Justice & Development Party AKP, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went to Japan’s Osaka on June 28-29 for G-20 Summit and also visited Mukogawa Women’s University where he announced his liking of the system. Erdoğan, upon his arrival in Turkey also brought up his visit and announced his willingness to initiate the same concept in Turkey as well. dokuz8NEWS has asked Dr. Aydın Özbek, a visiting scholar at Tokyo University of Foreign Languages in Japan regarding the history of women’s universities and how they are perceived in society.

#dokuz8/Gürkan Özturan & Fatma Kurubaş

AKP chair & President Erdoğan during his visit to Japan’s Mukogawa University said “the idea of women’s universities is significantly important for us” glorifying the concept as he announced his willingness for this to be initiated in Turkey too. In pro-government media, following these comments there have emerged news articles concerning the need for women’s universities and how this is a popular and growing concept for many western countries.

Dr. Aydın Özbek

Dr. Aydın Özbek who is currently visiting Japanese Tokyo University of Foreign Languages answered dokuz8NEWS’ questions regarding the history of these universities and if this would increase women’s participation in daily life in Turkey higher. Dr. Özbek said, “in Kapan, the ‘Women’s Universities’ were introduced in Japan during Meiji period when 265 years of Edo period was over ending the fiefdoms that separated themselves from rest of the world. Under Meiji period Japan opened its doors to the West. In the first years of Meiji period the imperial universities such as Tokyo University would only admit male students; and there was no higher education institution for female students.”

Following on the need for initiation of women’s universities in Japan a century ago, Dr. Özbek said that Christian missionary institutions were the ones to start women’s universities in order to teach women how to be proper wives and clever mothers. The curriculum of these universities when they were first founded focused on good morality, household economics & governance, which were far from modern education.

Dr. Özbek also continued his statement for dokuz8NEWS that in Japan’s history women receiving education was considered highly, while because graduates of women’s universities were not being appointed to high level positions there is seen a decreasing interest in these institutions. Moreover, the women’s universities’ contemporary “advanced technical school for girls” that were present in Turkey in the past century, have already become obsolete in 21st century.

NEED TO ASK WOMEN TOO

Republican Women’s Association have started a petition calling for stopping of the process that might lead to establishment of women’s universities in Turkey. The association also declares that women have the right to fair and equal education that will allow them to be equal citizens in society, and gender-based education would not meet the needs of Turkey.

Following Dr. Özbek’s comments, dokuz8NEWS also asked for comments of Women’s Rights Advocate Lawyer Fatma Gül Evren who said “the Women’s Universities that one can see in Japan is a concept that deepens the social gender inequalities that we are stuggling against. These are institutions that lock women in homes. For them, women would only give birth, do house labour, submit themselves to patriarchy that intervenes in society to prevent women’s liberation. Already the capabilities of women are being taken away from their hands and equality of opportunity continues, this proposal of such an institution is unacceptable.”

Concept of Women’s Universities that AKP chair & President Erdoğan admired in Japan have caused further reactions from academia and women’s movement as well as main opposition Republican People’s Party CHP and Peoples’ Democratic Party HDP, and is being labeled as a backward and sexist application.