A new law allegedly allowing men accused of abusing women under the age of 18 to avoid punishment if they marry their victims is set to be debated in the Turkish parliament.
The “marry your rapist” bill, which has not been passed yet, is being introduced into the Turkish parliament in preparation for MPs to debate at the end of January. The proposal has drawn widespread and international criticism, with opponents accusing it of legitimising rape, the marriage of minors and normalising child abuse and sexual exploitation.
The United Nations has spoken out against the bill, warning that it could lead to the increased confidence of rapists without fear of punishment and consequences to their crimes. It has also been denounced by opposition MPs from parties such as the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) which has urged the government to block it from being debated, primarily over fears that it could be used by some to force girls and minors into unwanted marriages.
A similar bill was presented to the Turkish parliament back in 2016, it had proposed the same for rape cases in which “force, threat, or any other restriction on consent” was not used. It was dropped by the ruling AKP government following global outrage.
Turkey has long been subject to scrutiny over the presence of alleged child marriage within the country and its proposed marriage laws. Although the legal age of consent in the Republic is 18, an estimated 482,908 child marriages took place over the past ten years, according to a government report published in 2018.
In 2017, another law was introduced – which was passed – allowing Islamic muftis and scholars to conduct civil marriage ceremonies, resulting in a barrage of criticism due to the perception that it undermines the country’s secular constitution and would allegedly open the way for more child marriages.