Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has withdrawn a bill that pardons men convicted of sex with underage girls if they have married them.
BBC (22.11.2016) – http://bbc.in/2gx8fnX – The bill, part of a package of amendments to the legal system, was sent back for further work just hours before a final vote in parliament.
It had sparked protests across Turkish society and was condemned abroad.
Critics said it would legitimise statutory rape and encourage the practice of taking child brides.
UN agencies had called on the government not to approve the bill, arguing that it would damage the country’s ability to combat sexual abuse and child marriage.
But the government says the main aim is to exonerate men imprisoned for marrying an underage girl apparently with her or her family’s consent.
The draft law will now be returned to a commission which will take into account the views of the opposition and civil society, Mr Yildirim said.
This would allow for “broad consensus” and to “give time for the opposition parties to develop their proposals”.
Turkey’s legal age of consent is 18 but the practice of underage weddings in religious ceremonies remains widespread.
Opposition parties heavily criticised the bill which had been approved in an initial parliamentary reading on Thursday.
The ruling AK Party dominates parliament in Ankara.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag had defended the legislation, saying: “The bill will certainly not bring amnesty to rapists…. This is a step taken to solve a problem in some parts of our country.”
In July, Turkey’s constitutional court annulled part of the criminal code which classified all sexual acts with children under 15 as sexual abuse.
Elif Shafak, one of Turkey’s best-selling novelists, explained the concern over the bill.
“One of the main weaknesses of this draft is that word, consent,” she told the BBC.
“What does that mean? We’re talking about children here. So if the rapist negotiates with the family, if he bribes or threatens the family, the family can easily withdraw, you know, their complaint and they can say OK there was a consent and there was no force involved.”
But Ravza Kavakci Kan, an AKP MP, said the bill had been misunderstood.
“It is about giving normality to young women who have been married underage due to cultural norms, other norms, and now find themselves with their children suffering because their husbands are in prison,” she told the BBC’s Newsday programme.
“One of the examples is when the woman is 15 and the man is 17, they get married, they’re both underage, a few years later after they’ve had children, or when they go to register their babies, or when they go to the doctor, the doctors or officials have to report this case if it is an underage marriage, so now they are 24, 25 and all of a sudden their husbands are in prison.”
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