Sexual Pleasure Empowers Women!: Response to Susie JollySusie is right! Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways (WWHR), which I co-founded, has been implementing a Human Rights Education Program for Women in the most marginalized and poor areas of Turkey for 15 years, aiming to empower individuals and organisations at the grassroots. This participatory training runs once a week for four months, and includes two sessions on women’s sexuality. The training was originally developed through a pilot project with women living in a shanty town area of Istanbul (Umraniye), back in March 1995. They raised the issue of sexual pleasure, and through discussion arrived at the idea of sexual pleasure being a woman’s human right, long before sexuality and sexual rights became an issue of such fierce debate at the global level.
As of 2010, its 15th anniversary, the program is being implemented in 45 provinces in Turkey in cooperation with the Community Centre of the State Directorate on Social Services. Over 2000 women are trained annually, most of whom are Turkish and Kurdish women living in poverty, and many of whom become leaders and agents of social change, development and gender equality in their communities after attending the program. The sessions on sexuality, including discussions on women’s right to sexual pleasure, continue to be the most popular part of the training programme!
As our experience from Turkey exemplifies, women from all socio-economic levels perceive the autonomy over their bodies and sexuality to be an indispensable part of their human rights and one of the most significant pre-conditions of their empowerment. The right to sexual rights, including sexual pleasure, as demanded by women around the globe, symbolizes women’s struggle for empowerment from a holistic perspective and their struggle for actual gender equality.
Women for Women’s Human Rights, Turkey
Amado, Liz Ercevik (2006) ‘Promoting Sexual Rights through Sexual Rights Education: Experiences at Grassroots in Turkey’, IDS Bulletin, 37.5: 17-22
Ilkkaracan, Ipek and Gulsah Seral (2000) ‘Sexual Pleasure as a Woman’s Human Right: Experiences from a Grassroots Training Program in Turkey’, in Ilkkaracan, P. (ed.), Women and Sexuality in Muslim Societies, Istanbul: Women for Women’s Human Rights