The paradox of protection

Human rights, the masculinist state, and the moral economy of gratitude in Turkey

by lif M. Babül

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Human rights are among the most-cited criteria for Turkey's accession to the European Union. Focusing on how women's and children's rights figure in governmental reform programs, I explore the institutionalization of rights-bearing subjects in the Turkish official realm. Portrayals of women and children as innocent, depoliticized victims in need of protection and care are meant to persuade state officials to prosecute domestic violence, honor killings, and child abuse. However, this approach narrows the category of rights bearers by excluding groups who do not conform to the image of the helpless victim. Representations of women and children as domesticated rights bearers also consolidate the Turkish state as the locus of “masculinist protection,” reinforcing a moral economy that requires, in return, the grateful obedience of the protected.