Child sex abuse in Turkey
From 2010 to 2017, 134,960 criminal cases of child sex abuse was investigated in Turkey.
This equals to about 50 children per day that are sexually abused. The number also includes young girls given away in marriage before the legal age of 18.
Moreover, this is only official statistics and cases that have been investigated (based on data published by the Ministry of Justice).
In 2018 the public demanded that action be taken to curb the abuse, and the government began to tackle the problem. Parliament is currently looking into a bill to toughen the punishment for the sexual abuse of children and women.
An epidemic of violence?
urkey is currently awaiting a court verdict on another investigation related to child murder.
The body of 9-year-old Sedanur Guzel was found after seven days of searching. The child disappeared in September in the Kagızman area, Kars province.
It turned out that her three neighbors first raped, then killed her.
On 21 December, the state prosecutor demanded life imprisonment for premeditated murder with aggravating circumstances, as well as imprisonment for 24 years for the rape of a minor.
eanwhile, the fate of 3-year-old Evrim Atish, who went missing in the Rurkhal area, Tokat province, is still unknown. She has been missing since July 2018, with officials still searching for her. The girl is believed to have been killed by her parents.
Although her father is already in jail, her mother is a suspect. According to preliminary reports, her parents abused her and killed her, then hid the body in the hope of avoiding punishment.
month before Evrim disappeared, three other children were killed in June 2018 in three parts of the country: three-year-old Leyla Aydemir from Ağrı, 8-year-old Eylul Yaglikara from Ankara, and 6-year-old Ufuk Tatar from Hatay province.
These children were not sexually abused: they were killed because of hostilities between their relatives.
Are the Turkish authorities unable to protect children?
Local NGOs believe this to be the case. Sociologist Emrah Kirimsoy says that, in addition to the statistics on child murder, over 100,000 children have gone missing in Turkey over the past 8 years.
“This is an incredible number,” he says, “and it is time for the state to make this problem a priority.”
A plan including preventative measures for Turkey were drawn up for 2014-2019. However, the chairman of the online platform Let’s Stop Femicide, Dr. Gulsum Kav, said that this document exists only formally.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]Over 100,000 children have gone missing in Turkey over the past 8 years.[/su_pullquote]
“This document is not mentioned by the state or by society. I think that if the state structures simply worked in accordance with this instruction, half of the problems would resolve by themselves.”
The death penalty, or more child protection measures?
In 2014, the number of sexual violence and child murder cases peaked in Turkey. The Prime Minister of Turkey, Rejeb Tayyib Erdogan, invited the public to discuss whether or not the death penalty should be reinstated.
Although the death penalty has not been reinstated, the legislation has been made significantly harsher. The murder of a minor is now punishable by life imprisonment in a high-security prison. For sexual and domestic violence against children, one can be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]Rather than toughening up punishments, the government should make more of an effort to protect children from violence.[/su_pullquote]
But many lawyers in Turkey believe that, instead of toughening up punishments, the government should make more of an effort to protect children from violence.
“In Turkey, the punishments for crimes against juveniles are already more severe than in other states. But the situation has not changed. The main thing that needs to be done is to ensure that existing laws work,” says a member of the Juvenile Bar Association, attorney Gazal Bayram.
27,000 underage girls given away in marriage every year
Relying on registered cases alone, at least 27,000 underage children are forced into marriage on a yearly basis.
A total of 45 per cent of all investigations into cases of sexual violence against minors are not brought to punishment.
According to a recent report by the Istanbul branch of the Society for the Protection of Human Rights, Turkey ranks third in the world in terms of pedophilia.
Religious society and pedophilia
There are also cases of sexual abuse against children in the dormitories of educational institutions.
In just four months, from the end of 2017 to the beginning of 2018, three criminal cases were launched into sexual abuse against children, looking into religious organisations engaged in educational work.
Among the victims was a 9-year-old boy.
Most of the dormitories in which these cases were recorded belong to the religious Suleymanchi society.
For many years now, the opposition has come out against this organisation, but no measures have been taken. All cases end with the punishment of only a single Suleymanchi individual.
The most high-profile case in recent years in Turkey occurred in the dormitory of the religious Ansar Vakfi organisation, where juveniles were molested.
In 2012-2015, a teacher named Muharrem Buyukturk sexual assaulted 45 boys. He was sentenced to 508 years and three months in prison.
One of the most notable events in the sensational case was the statement made by the then Minister for Family and Social Policy, Sema Ramazanoglu:
“We cannot blacken the whole organisation because of one case,” she said.
The statement has long remained on the agenda of the news media and has caused an uproar from the political opposition.
Despite protests, the Ensar Vakfi foundation is still operating.
What is the government doing?
On 20 November 2008, the Ministry of Justice issued a circular on crimes against the sexual integrity of children and women.
The seven-point document requires prosecutors to immediately initiate an investigation after receiving a statement.
Amendments to the criminal code are expected in the near future. According to draft amendments which have already been submitted to the Turkish parliament, the punishment for charges of sexual violence against children will be made more severe and the term of imprisonment will increase from the current 20 years to 40 years.
In addition, the accused will be subjected to chemical castration.