Student Blogger - #dgemw Blog: 1917 Ottoman Family Rights Law
Professor Holly Shissler highlighted the legal reform and debate that occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century in the Ottoman Empire. During this period, the state was codifying its laws and attempting to aggrandize power to itself. Although the family law was not codified until 1917, many reforms took place in the 1800s. For example, in the 1860s, bride prices were codified by class, preventing individual negotiation; an 1858 land law stipulated that women had an equal right to inherit real property (although it was not often honored); throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, more and more events had to be recorded with the state, such as births, deaths, marriages, and divorces; and a legal guardian had to be present for marriages by those under the age of twenty, but not for those older. The 1917 Ottoman Family Rights Law was the first codification of family law in the Muslim world. It incorporated many aspects of religious marriage and also included rules for Christian and Jewish marriage. Some view this law as religious; others claim that it was a step toward secularization because it brought an aspect of religion under the power of the state; some view it merely as aggrandizement by the state.
During the later 1800s, a vibrant press movement emerged, and this movement included women. Journals and newspapers existed that were targeted at women, and they were often written by women. Many of these writings challenged parts of the family law, and this criticism continued even after a general crackdown on the press starting in 1876. By the end of the nineteenth century, an indigenous feminist movement--both Islamic and secular--emerged that carried on to the Turkish republic.