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Page last updated at 14:29 GMT, Saturday, 5 July 2008 15:29 UK

Turkish women attack clothing law

By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Istanbul

Turkish women protest against the law against exhibitionism, Istanbul, 5/07/08
These women said no-one had the right to tell them how to dress

About 70 Turkish women have protested in Istanbul after a court found a woman guilty of exhibitionism for fishing in what was termed "improper clothing".

The protesters marched across the iconic Galata Bridge chanting slogans.

"It's not exhibitionism, it's male abuse!" and "State, take your hands off my body!" they cried.

Rows of bemused fishermen watched as they passed - many were wearing strappy tops, flimsy sun-dresses with plunging necklines, or shorts.

The incident they were protesting about occurred last summer, on the same bridge, when men complained that the woman's clothing was "improper."

Turkish newspapers quote court documents as saying she was wearing a lightweight outfit like a nightdress, which blew up in the wind.

Last week a judge upheld the men's complaints.

'Conservative pressure'

Women protesters say finding the woman guilty of "exhibitionism" is disturbing proof that conservative thinking is on the rise here.

"They think women should stay home and dress properly," complains Cigdem Mater.

"The question is what is proper? No-one has the right to tell us what to wear, that is the point."

Fishermen on Galata Bridge in Istanbul
Fishermen on the bridge seemed bemused by the protest

None of the men who witnessed the actual incident were about on Saturday. But other fishermen expressed their disapproval at the ruling.

"I don't think anyone should be arrested because of their clothing. People cross this bridge wearing all sorts of things," one of the fishermen said.

"But unfortunately there is conservative pressure on people now because we have a religious government."

The AK Party - which is led by devout Muslims - has been in power since 2002. Some are concerned Turkey is becoming more conservative under its rule.

"Men here are not well educated," another fisherman adds.

"It's the mothers that fail to teach them. But overall, the state sides with men when things should be equal."

The protesters sang songs and carried banners calling for the law on exhibitionism to be overturned.

They argue it reinforces the patriarchal order in Turkey and discriminates against women.

A number of men who groped a woman on Taksim Square last New Year's Eve were fined 57 lira ($45, 23).

The fisherwoman in a flimsy dress was given a five-month suspended prison sentence for exhibitionism.


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