Ancient Turkey Women Rights: Divorce If You Can’t Go to a Steam Bath!

Turkey is one of those countries with insanely beautiful culture, architecture, cuisine and historical significances but the women of this country like most others got buried under the patriarchal nature of the society in its history. While it’s women are still fighting to get that equality prevalent more smoothly among it’s people, the women rights in the history of Turkey took a turn when they could claim for divorce if their husbands tried to stop them from attending the traditional steam bath of the society.

While it’s women are still fighting to get that equality prevalent more smoothly among it’s people, the women rights in the history of Turkey took a turn when they could claim for divorce if their husbands tried to stop them from attending the traditional steam bath of the society.

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Hamman: The Turkish Steam Bath

Derived from the Central Asian and Roman bath cultures, Hammam or the Turkish Steam Bath has come to stand as the oldest bath tradition still fluent in the times today. As even seen, like the Great Bath from The Harappan Civilization of Ancient History, the Hammam had a substantial social significance as well.  These were places open for everybody regardless of social status. Discrimination on the basis of social status and rank by birth was predominant in the society and thus a place where the boundaries got so narrowed down played the role of a slow revolution. From a business deals spot to a place for different social classes to get mingled, hammam was becoming a place that rubbed out differences.

It has three rooms connected with each other. The first being a large hall with seats all around made of stone and a small pool in the middle. This room is for removing the clothes and putting on a thin cloth to cover the body before entering the consecutive rooms.

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The next room is where the steam bath is actually taken. It has a marble basin for bathing, a partly closed cubicle for bathing and a heated piece of marble seating cut in the shape of an octagon or rectangle placed in the center which is to be used as a platform while steam bathing. The masseur present applies a traditional paste to clean the body.

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The last part of the hammam is for relaxing after the whole steam bath in the previous room. It’s the cooling room with several types of relaxing drinks giving the calm ambiance at the end of the whole bath.

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Women and the Hammam

Hammams, like most other things in the ancient Turkish society, were meant only for the men and the women weren’t allowed inside.  But with time, they were let in, but only after an illness or after child-birth. This slowly took up such a pace that the Turkish women going to a hammam became a rather regular and unquestionable part of the Turkish society. It became a major part of the Turkish weddings, where the women would have a bathing ritual to clean themselves and relieve from the stresses before the wedding. However, the women weren’t allowed to be in the same room along with the men in a hammam, and would have either separate hammams or varying hours in the same for them.

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Women got the power to claim for divorce if their husband didn’t let them attend the hammam sessions.  This was a huge step in lifting up the status of women in society as it gave a place and time to recognize and mention the thus-ignored presence of these women. It gave a place to women where they could participate in a social gathering and stand exactly equal to the men in the activity.

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