Over 3,000 abusers will remain in jails, at least for the time being
Scandalous amendments rejected
If an abuser marries his victim, who is under the age of 15, he should be discharged from liability. It was the most shocking provision of the bill of amendments to the Turkish legislation, signed by 6 MPs from the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP). The bill was submitted to the country’s Palriament on November 17, 2016.
As Ömer Süha Aldan, MP from the National Republican Party of Turkey, told Doğan News Agency when commenting on the proposed package of legal amendments, every should realize, what a terrible legal amendment is introduced in Turkey. “This amendment contradicts the equality provision and therefore, it has been rejected by the Constitutional Court. It actually legalizes underage marriages.
Aldan said earlier, the proposal had been already endorsed by 165 MPs from the ruling party and the November 22 voting would be just formal.
However, the debated amendments have stirred up scandal in mass media and on social networks, as well as caused sharp criticism on part of the international community. Namely, the UNICEF Spokesperson, Christophe Boulierac, expressed concern over ‘the draft bill on sexual offenders, which introduces some type of amnesty for child abuse perpetrators. The protest rallies were held in Istanbul and other cities.
Eventually, on November 22, Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yıldırım, withdrew the package of legal amendments.
However, it doesn’t mean that the ruling party will not bring this issue on agenda again.
The supporters of the amendment claim, it defends the women’s rights.
Bekir Bozdağ, Turkish Justice Minister, made the following comment on social media: “The amendment will apply only in the cases, when it’s necessary to legalize family relations of those, persons who have already married, but failed to register their marriage because of the age qualification for marriage. The amendment is required only to avoid suffering of a woman, her imprisoned husband and their common children, families.
Pregnancy at 15, labour – at 16
Sevim Ilkay (a name has been changed) lives in Mühye village, in the vicinity of Ankara. 50 years ago she was kidnapped by Kerem, who was 10 year older.
Bride kidnapping is still widely applied in rural areas as a means to avoid the wedding-related expenses and a problem with a bride’s consent. Sometimes the parents from both sides give consent to such a marriage and an underaged girl’s parents offer a groom to kidnap a bride so as to avoid criminal liable.
Sometimes a minor girl is married off to stop animosities between the families. In the eastern Turkey, there were cases when poor families married off their minor daughters to adult men for 5-6 ancient gold coins to improve their material status. They marry off their minor daughters even for the bigamists (as a rule men prefer underage girls under such deals). Given that one gold coin costs approximately US$250 nowadays, a girl costs US$1,000-1,250 on average.
It’s a crime from the legal point of view, since the legal age of consent in Turkey is 18, and it could be reduced to 16 on court’s decision. However, it rarely goes over to court.
Despite the Turkish Government’s efforts, the number of underage sexual abuses under the pretense of starting a family is increasing.
Sevim Ilkay is also a victim of this type of violence. She spends her days rushing between the cattle sheds, located at three sides from the house. A traditional Turkish low house practically couldn’t be seen among these household facilities.
I’ve been visiting this village almost every week over the past year. The seasons of the year change, but Sevim’s cloth remain the same. “We live on money from livestock and poultry breeding. Hence the money for petroleum for my husband. A woman is not valued here, she is taken when a child and is forced to work as a servant. She has to do everything she’s told, because she has neither a profession nor a job. You won ‘t even notice when your back is crouched and the life has passed away.
Sevim was kidnapped at the age of 14. Nobody asked the girl’s consent, her parents were not against it. “While my coevals were playing the games, I was busy with household chores and farming. I also had to look after my husband and serve his parents. How were they supposed to understand me, when even my parents did not listen to me. You are a child and you don’t know how a woman must behave; you are always reproached by it.
Sevim got pregnant at the age of 15 and a child was born when she was 16. “I had to endure much. Being a child, I had to serve the family with a little child in my hands. For as long as I remember, I was always directed by others. I have never felt myself a person. My life has passed among these cattle sheds. I have back pains from cold, but nobody is going to take me to the doctor. My husband rushes to a doctor as soon as he catches cold.
Her husband returned home by the end of our conversation. “Haven’t I told you not to let the hens go into the yard, it’s cold outside, he bawled her out. A hard life has so much marred her appearance, that she looks older, like her husband’s mother, though she is much younger than he is.
4,000 sexual deviants
According to the statistical data, approximately 17, 000 cases of sexual abuse of minors and other sexual offences are reported annually in Turkey. Those cases have been registered by the police and are being investigated. Given that there were 2,400 such cases in 2006, it could be said that the number of such offences has considerably increased. But the actual figure is much higher.
Saida Ekmen, a member of the Turkish Bar Association, says: “Thus, if an underage girl is sexually abused by 4-5 men and one of them agrees to marry a victim, the rest of the perpetrators will be freed. This amendment may cause reduction of the age qualification for marriage to 15 years and even lower. As a result, the number of early marriages will grow. Being married off at such an age, a girl can only dream of education.
In Saida Ekmen’s opinion, in essence, it’s a conclusion of marriage between a sexually abused child and her abuser. “It implies release of 4,000 sexual deviants [Turkish government officials claim, this amendment will apply to approximately 4, 000 people].
Murad Aydin, a judge with 20 years work experience and an author of many books, who deals with the underage brides’ issue in Turkey, has reminded on social networks that in 2005, the incumbent government passed the amendment on refusal to postpone a term of imprisonment for an abuser who married a victim. Aydin called for getting back to that position. “Child protection is a duty of the state and the community. As far as this issue is concerned, we should put aside all political differences and consider it using a common sense.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, believes, the new legal amendments will help to solve the undeage marriage problem, that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) pledged to tackle as early as during the campaign period. ‘We also made a pledge. The AK Party has its principle. To create solutions, not hand problems down to our grandchildren. Mindful of this, we brought a bill before the parliament. But before you knew it, all hell broke loose.’
According to Binali Yildirim, the commission will broker a solution to this problem having deliberated on it with the views of all parties taken into account.