KARACHI: Turkey’s ruling party is attempting to introduce a law that would allow child sex offenders to get away with raping anyone under the age of 18, as long as they marry their victim afterwards.
The bill was first proposed in 2016 and rejected. This will be the government’s second attempt at introducing the bill, which has not been passed yet. It will be presented in the Turkish parliament in preparation for MPs to debate at the end of January. Naturally, the news has sparked outrage across Turkey as well as globally.
The legislation, which was first debated by parliament on 16 January, would give men suspended sentences for child sex offences if the two parties get married and the age difference between them is less than 10 years. According to The Guardian, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s conservative Justice and Development party (AKP) has said the proposal is designed to deal with Turkey’s widespread child marriage problem.
However, opposition parties and women’s rights groups have pointed out that the bill legitimises child marriage and statutory rape in a country where the legal age of consent is 18. Fidan Ataselim, the general secretary of the activist group We Will Stop Femicide, said the new bill was an attempt by the government to erase evidence of Turkey’s growing epidemic of violence against girls and women.
Turkey has long been criticized for the high rates of child marriages. Although the legal age of consent in the Republic is 18, roughly 482,908 child marriages took place over the past ten years, according to a government report published in 2018.