If passed, a draft bill in Turkey law will free prisoners guilty of sexually assaulting a minor if the act was committed without ‘force, threat, or any other restriction on consent’ and if the aggressor ‘marries the victim’.
The proposed bill has caused widespread fury throughout the Muslim country, according to the Guardian, which published the photo above showing woman protesting against the bill.
Opposition parties, celebrities, and even an association whose deputy chairman is the daughter of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed alarm over the move.
Dozens protested against the bill in central Istanbul, tearing up copies of the proposed legislation and brandishing slogans like “rape is a crime against humanity”.
Said protester Fadik Temizyurek:
Until she is 18, a child remains a child, that is why this has to be condemned.
But the government insisted the legislation was aimed at dealing with the widespread custom of child marriages and the criticism was a crude distortion of its aim.
The bill was approved at an initial parliamentary reading on Thursday and will be voted on again in a second debate in the coming days.
The bill was brought to parliament by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Said an MP for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Ozgur Ozel.
The AKP is pushing through a text which pardons those who marry the child that they raped.
On Twitter, the hashtag TecavuzMesrulastirilamaz (Rape Cannot be Legitimised) became a top-trending topic as users took to social media to express their anger.
A petition on change.org urging the authorities to block the legislation has received over 600,000 signatures.
The Turkish Prime Minister said the measure would only be applied to offences committed before November 11, 2016. He told reporters in Ankara:
There are people who get married before reaching the legal age. They just don’t know the law.
He added that the measure aims to “get rid of this injustice”.
He said claims that the law would de facto legalise rape were “completely false”, noting that the government had raised penalties for the crime, accusing the CHP of exploiting the issue for political gain.
The Justice Minister, Bekir Bozdag, said marriages involving minors were “unfortunately a reality” in Turkey but the men involved:
Were not rapists or sexual aggressors.
He said the measure would affect some 3,000 families.
The latest controversy comes after Turkey’s constitutional court in July annulled a criminal code provision punishing as “sexual abuse” all sexual acts involving children under the age of 15.
Defenders of that law argued it made a distinction between cases of sexual acts involving a young teenager as opposed to a much younger child.
Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s deputy Europe director, said the parliament bill risks sending:
The wrong message and could lead to further abuse. It is impossible … to guarantee that there was in fact full and informed consent of the girl, not just of her family.