• Amid Protests, Turkey Withdraws Child Marriage Bill

    Turkey has withdrawn a bill which would have pardoned men who engaged in sex with underage girls, if they had married the victims.

    The bill had sparked widespread protests across the country and had been criticised globally.

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    Turkey takes to the street to protest against the bill. (Source: CBC)

    The UN agencies had released a joint press release on November 21, condemning the bill.

     “If adopted in its current form, the draft Bill would weaken Turkey’s ability to combat sexual abuse and child marriage. It would create a perception of impunity in favour of perpetrators of such child rights violations. In addition, it would increase the risk for further victimization of the child if she marries the perpetrator of the sexual abuse,” it said. 

    The bill, which had been proposed by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, has now been sent to a parliamentary sub-committee to be reworked, after even Turkey’s opposition parties criticised it.

    The government had defended the bill, saying that its main aim was to exonerate men imprisoned for marrying an underage girl with both family’s consent. However, child marriage is already a huge problem in Turkey and it is unclear whether a young girl even feels able to give concent, say critics. The bill would have legitimised rape, they say.

    Elif Shafak, a best-selling Turkish author, tells BBC “We’re talking about children here. So if the rapist negotiates with the family, if he bribes or threatens the family, the family can easily withdraw, you know, their complaint and they can say OK there was a consent and there was no force involved.”

    The European Parliament is to meet this week to talk about whether accession talks with Turkey should be frozen.

    As many as 440,000 girls under 18 have become mothers since 2002. Child abuse cases have tripled in the past 10 years, according to data from the Turkish Justice Ministry.

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