Society 14:05 29/01/2020 Region

Men who rape and marry girls under 18 could be pardoned in Turkey - Sassounian

The British Independent newspaper published an unbelievable article last week, titled: “‘Marry-your-rapist’ bill to be introduced by lawmakers in Turkey.”

This sounds like a subject from the Middle Ages. If the Turkish Parliament approves it, the pending law “would allow men accused of having sex with girls who are under 18 to avoid punishment if they marry their victims,” The Independent reported.

Turkish Women’s rights campaigners are furious that such a shameful bill could become law in ‘modern’ Turkey. Critics contend that the envisaged law “not only legitimizes child marriage and statutory rape but also paves the way for child abuse and sexual exploitation,” The Independent wrote. The pro-Kurdish opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) opposes this bill.

“United Nations agencies warned the bill would generate a landscape of impunity for child abuse and leave victims vulnerable to experiencing additional mistreatment and distress from their assailants,” according to The Independent.

A similar bill, introduced in 2016, was defeated in the Turkish Parliament, after receiving criticisms from women’s rights activists from around the world. That legislation would have only pardoned men for having sex with young girls “without force or threat.”

A small number of countries have passed such legislation for the purpose of protecting and safeguarding “family honor.” However, several other countries, such as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Palestine that had such objectionable laws, have repealed them in recent years.

The Independent quoted Suad Abu-Dayyah, a women’s rights campaigner, saying it was ‘shocking’ politicians are trying to pass a bill that “provides impunity for perpetrators of child sexual exploitation.” She told The Independent: “I applaud the brave work of women’s rights campaigners in Turkey who are taking a stand against this discriminatory bill and pushing back against regressive forces that are seeking to remove current legal protections for girls. Similar ‘marry-your-rapist’ legal provisions have been on the statute books of countries across the Middle East and North Africa. Thanks to years of campaigning by women’s rights activists and lawmakers in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Palestine have all removed these loopholes in recent years. Rather than attempting to introduce legislation that harms women's rights and protections, Turkish lawmakers should take heed of these advances in repealing gender discriminatory laws.”

Even though the legal age of consent in Turkey is 18, The Turkish Daily News quoted Tekin Bingol, a member of the Turkish Republican People's Party (CHP) in Parliament, stating: “a total of 482,908 underage women were married in the last 10 years. In Turkey, 26 percent of females were married before the age of 18. Ten percent of them gave birth before the age of 18. Some 142,298 underage mothers were recorded in the last six years. Most of these children were married with religious ceremonies. A total of 440,000 underage girls have given birth since 2002. The number of women under 15 who gave birth after being exposed to sexual abuse was recorded as 15,937.”

The Independent reported that “Violence against women and girls is prevalent in Turkey -- with 38 per cent of Turkish women having suffered physical or sexual violence from a partner according to the United Nations. A campaign group called We Will Stop Femicide estimates some 409 women were murdered by a partner or a family member in the country in 2017 -- a stark rise from the total of 237 four years beforehand.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, instead of defending women’s rights, has made public statements denigrating the value of women! During a meeting in 2014, Erdogan told the audience: “You cannot put women and men on an equal footing. It is against nature.” Erdogan also urged women in 2016 to have at least three children and argued that a woman’s life was ‘incomplete’ if she did not reproduce. “A woman who says ‘because I am working I will not be a mother’ is actually denying her femininity,” Erdogan said. “A woman who rejects motherhood, who refrains from being around the house, however successful her working life is, is deficient, is incomplete.”

I hope that the legislation pardoning men who marry underage girls after raping them will be rejected. Since the majority of the Turkish Parliament members are affiliated with Pres. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), the President can easily stop this legislation from being introduced in Parliament. However, it is not known what he will do, as he has taken many domestic and international positions which are contrary to Turkey’s and Turkish people’s interests. As we have seen on many occasions, Erdogan prefers to appeal to his radical followers rather than doing the right thing!

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

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