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Is Turkey about to revive the "marry your rapist" law?

March 06, 2020
topic:Women's rights
tags:#Turkey, #rappist, #women's rights, #Erdogan
by:Katarina Panić
"How I met your mother? I raped her when she was 13" – reads the placard that demonstrators in Tunisia waved outside the national parliament four years ago. They have been protesting against the local court's decision a 13-year-old girl is fit for marriage. She was two years below the age of consent, and her adult step-brother impregnated her.

Last month the picture of this placard was re-actualised, this time in Turkey. People have been sharing it via social networks to raise their voice against the lawmakers' intention to introduce a law enabling rapists to avoid punishment by marrying their victims.

"So far no law has been introduced to the parliament. We are in regular contact with our government counterparts advocating for a further strengthening of the legal protection system for children in Turkey, within the framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which specify that the best interests of the child should prevail in all decisions concerning them", UNICEF Turkey told FairPlanet.

Istanbul-based freelance journalist Didem Tali reminds us that the regressive attitudes in Turkey when it comes to sexual violence towards girls and women are nothing new - and neither they're unique to the current government.

"Nevertheless, in the last couple of decades, Turkey proactively embraced the idea of a 'good old' traditional time, with a unique slant of neo-imperialism. These ideologies manifested in anything from economic to foreign policy. The 'marry your rapist' bill is among the many manifestations of this top-down conservatism", she said to FairPlanet.

However, the multi-award-winning reporter emphasises Turkey also has a very powerful and growing grassroots feminist movement.

"Even in mainstream conservative politics, it's becoming harder to resist this movement. Even though we're worried about the far-reaching implications of such laws, I have absolutely no doubt that the progressive forces in our country will not allow these anti-woman ideologies to go too far", she added.

The roots of legislation that violate human rights

Gülender Adigüzel from Turkish Pearl Association is an activist and lawyer working on women rights, among other things. She reminds up until 2005 Turkey had a criminal code which postpones the sentence for sexual abuse if the perpetrator marries the victim who is 15 years old at least.

"The patriarchal structure treats raped women as guilty, not as victims. Some parents believe marriage can earn their prestige back. Even worse, some accept the money not to report the police the perpetrator in return. Also, some perpetrators threat victims and their families not to report them. Such legislation also increased child brides, especially in the eastern part of Turkey", she said to FairPlanet.

The controversial article was removed in 2005, but in 2016 the similar draft law was brought to parliament. It provoked massive local and international protests and eventually it was cancelled due to strong condemnations.

"Nowadays, there is an allegation that members of parliament are arguing to bring this topic again. Cumhuriyet Magazine made news about that in December. It mentioned a meeting where members of the ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP decided to bring a draft of the law. No one from AKP refused that news", Gülender Adigüzel added.

A patriarchal mentality considers the victim of rape deeply shaming for her family. Only marriage may keep the family's honour and dignity. Both the victim and the family should be grateful the rapist is going to marry her. No one other would since her virginity is broken and she is damaged goods. Instead of justice, the victim gets mercy.

A long way to go

Turkey's President and AKP leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan follows the religion before society. Many repeatedly quote his words from a summit in Istanbul in 2014 that "equality between men and women was against nature".

Hürrem Sonmez, a lawyer, columnist and human rights activist spoke with to FairPlanet. She emphasises than government should bear in mind Turkey is a member of the European Council and part of the Istanbul Agreement.

"The Ministry of Justice says that this legislation protects families, especially among Turkish-Roma communities where people 'love to get married' under 15 years old. I had some cases where even girls say they married with consent after hospitals where the birth took place informed the police. Moreover, it would undoubtedly increase the number of under-aged marriages and encourage rapists", she added.

In Turkey, the legal age of consent to marriage is 18. However, it is estimated a total of half-million minor girls were married in the past decade.

Article written by:
Katarina Panić
Katarina Panić
Embed from Getty Images
People in Tunisia were demonstrating on a court's decision that a 13-year-old girl is fit for marriage.
Embed from Getty Images
Istanbul-based freelance journalist Didem Tali reminds us that the regressive attitudes in Turkey when it comes to sexual violence towards girls and women are nothing new.
Embed from Getty Images
Turkey also has a very powerful and growing grassroots feminist movement.
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