Turkey with­draws child mar­riage bill

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ANKARA: Fol­low­ing a public out­cry, Turkey’s govern­ment has with­drawn a pro­posal that crit­ics said would have al­lowed men ac­cused of sex­u­ally abus­ing un­der­age girls to go free if they were mar­ried to their vic­tims. The pro­posal, which was sched­uled to un­dergo a fi­nal vote in par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, would have de­ferred sen­tenc­ing or pun­ish­ment for sex­ual as­sault of mi­nors in cases where there was no phys­i­cal force and where the vic­tim and per­pe­tra­tor were mar­ried. The govern­ment said it would now submit the pro­posal for re­view to a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee.

The age of con­sent in Turkey is 18, al­though courts per­mit civil mar­riages for peo­ple as young as 16. Many younger peo­ple are mar­ried in Is­lamic cer­e­monies. The govern­ment has ar­gued for the need to re­dress “un­fair treat­ment” of fam­i­lies where fa­thers were placed in jail for mar­ry­ing girls un­der the age of 18 even if both par­ties and their par­ents con­sented. The pro­posal by the rul­ing Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party, rooted in Turkey’s Is­lamic move­ment, would have ap­plied to cases that had oc­curred be­tween 2005 and Nov 16 of this year.

Op­po­nents ar­gued that the bill amounted to a par­don for statu­tory rape if the per­pe­tra­tor was mar­ried to his vic­tim and would dis­rupt ef­forts to pre­vent child mar­riages and sex­ual as­sault on chil­dren. They main­tained that it would, for ex­am­ple le­git­imize the prac­tice of men tak­ing brides as young as 13 or 14. Hours be­fore the vote, Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim told re­porters the govern­ment was pulling back the pro­posal from the floor and would ask an all-party com­mis­sion on fam­ily af­fairs to re­view it.

His com­ments came af­ter Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan told the state-run Anadolu Agency late Mon­day that a broad con­sen­sus on the is­sue should be sought. “Due to a lack of full public con­sen­sus, our pres­i­dent’s call for a broad con­sen­sus and to al­low op­po­si­tion par­ties to de­velop their own pro­pos­als, we are tak­ing this pro­posal which is in par­lia­ment, to the com­mis­sion,” Yildirim said. “This prob­lem will cer­tainly be solved af­ter be­ing dis­cussed in de­tail, with all par­ties’ views be­ing taken into ac­count.” Hun­dreds of peo­ple gath­ered in front of the par­lia­ment build­ing to protest the mea­sure, even af­ter the govern­ment pulled it back.

Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the op­po­si­tion na­tion­al­ist party called on the govern­ment to aban­don the mea­sure com­pletely, and that sub­mit­ting it to a re­view is not enough. “Don’t suf­fo­cate Turkey any fur­ther with such mean­ing­less and empty dis­cus­sions,” Bahceli said in a speech in par­lia­ment. Op­po­si­tion par­ties, rights groups and ci­ti­zens had widely con­demned the pro­posal since its ini­ti­a­tion last week, is­su­ing state­ments and stag­ing demon­stra­tions across mul­ti­ple ci­ties na­tion­wide. United Na­tions agen­cies, in­clud­ing the chil­dren’s fund UNICEF, is­sued a joint state­ment on Mon­day warn­ing that the pro­posal “would weaken the coun­try’s abil­ity to com­bat sex­ual abuse and child mar­riages.”

— AP

ANKARA: Thou­sands of mem­bers of Turkey’s main op­po­si­tion Repub­li­can Peo­ple’s Party march to the par­lia­ment in Ankara yes­ter­day. Fol­low­ing a public out­cry, Turkey’s govern­ment has with­drawn a pro­posal that crit­ics said would have al­lowed men ac­cused of sex­u­ally abus­ing un­der­age girls to go free if they were mar­ried to their vic­tims.

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