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Turkish Lawmakers To Debate Bill That Allows Rapists Marry Their Victims

Turkish lawmakers to debate bill that allows rapists to marry their victims | Image: SYARIMAN

The Turkish government is proposing to introduce a bill that would pardon men that have been accused of raping underage girls if they marry their victims.

The controversial “marry-your-rapist” bill, which was first debated by the parliament on 16 January has sparked outrage among women’s rights activists in the country.

Critics of the bill, opposition parties and women’s rights activists, argue that the bill in effect legitimises child marriage and statutory rape.

This is the second attempt by the Turkish government to introduce such a bill. In 2016, after national and global outrage the government withdrew a bill that would have pardoned men convicted of child-sex assault.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s conservative Justice and Development party (AKP) has said the proposal is designed to deal with the widespread child marriage problem in Turkey where the legal age of consent is 18. A 2018 government report on child marriage estimates a total of 482,908 girls were married in the last decade. The report further said that the number of women under 15 who gave birth after being exposed to sexual abuse was recorded as 15,937.

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.

Guardian UK reports that We Will Stop Femicide has tracked gender-related violence and deaths since Turkish authorities stopped doing so in 2009, estimates that more than 2,600 women have been murdered in the last decade, and the number of killings has increased steadily each year.

Suad Abu-Dayyeh, a campaigner who specialises in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan for Equality Now, a non-government organisation which aims to promote the rights of women and girls, told The Independent that it was “shocking” politicians are trying to pass a bill that “provides impunity for perpetrators of child sexual exploitation”.

“Similar ‘marry-your-rapist’ legal provisions have been on the statute books of countries across the Middle East and North Africa.

She continued:

“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. 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.”

Protests against the proposed legislation were held around the country this month. A date for a second reading in parliament has not yet been set.

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