Last updated on September 11th, 2021 at 03:06 pm
A law allowing men to avoid punishment for raping underage girls by marrying their victim is set to be introduced in Turkey’s parliament, amid widespread outrage among rights campaigners.
The legislation was first debated in parliament on 16 January and would suspend sentences for child sex offences if the two parties marry and the age difference between them is less than ten years, The Guardian reported.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development party (AKP) has said in the past that the law was designed to deal with the widespread problem of child marriage in the country.
The opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has called on the government to drop the law and has vowed to block the bill, arguing that it legitimises statutory rape and child marriage.
Lawmakers are reportedly planning to introduce the bill to Turkish parliament at the end of January.
“I applaud the brave work of women’s rights campaigners in Turkey who are taking a stand against this discriminatory bill and pushing back again regressive forces that are seeking to remove current legal protections for girls,” Suad Abu-Dayyeh, a campaigner for Equality Now, told The Independent on Wednesday.
“Thanks to years of campaigning by women’s rights activists and lawmakers, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Palestine have all removed these loopholes in recent years,” she added.
“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.”
The bill was first presented in 2016 and passed an initial reading before being abandoned. The plans provoked anger across the country, with thousands taking to the streets in protest.
UN agencies at the time had warned that the proposal would “weaken the country’s ability to combat sexual abuse and child marriages”.
The legal age of consent is 18 in Turkey. A government report from 2018 estimated that more than 480,000 girls were married in the country in the last decade.
Around 40 percent of women in Turkey have reported being sexually or physically abused.