Acceptable behaviour and roles for women vary widely by class and region. In İstanbul and along the heavily touristed coastline, social freedom approximates that in Western Europe; in more traditional areas females act conservatively, with headscarves in abundance.
Turkish women have long held jobs in the professions and civil service as well as in the tourist sector in hotels and for airlines. There are female police, and an increasing number of women can be found working in restaurants and bars – though only in resorts and some of the more westernized cities such as Antalya, Ankara, İstanbul and İzmir. Recently, fast-food chains and supermarkets have offered more job opportunities. In rural areas, women rarely have access to formal employment and work the land. Literacy rates for girls are also significantly lower in rural areas despite compulsory education up to the age of fifteen.
In villages parents still choose wives for their sons; in cities more Western attitudes prevail and couples even live together unmarried. Despite the current AKP government openly calling for a ban, abortion is still available on demand; contraceptives are readily obtainable; and a baby can be registered to unmarried parents. The average number of children per family is two, though there’s a huge disparity between eastern and western Turkey, with families of up to twelve not uncommon in poorer southeastern (ethnically Kurdish) parts of the country. The law gives men considerable say over their children, though divorce law is fairly equitable.
Sadly Turkey is also known for hundreds of annual “honour” killings, particularly in Kurdish areas. These occur for actual or suspected adultery, pregnancy out of wedlock or dating someone disapproved of by the family. While in the past this crime was carried out by a male relative, lately women have been forced to commit suicide instead.