Turkey’s ‘marry-your-rapist’ bill

The Turkish Parliament recently debated a new bill on January 16th that has been dubbed the “marry your rapist” bill, where men who have been convicted of statutory rape will be pardoned and granted amnesty; as long as they marry their victims.

Although the legal age of consent in Turkey stands to be 18, historically there have been many cases of child marriages in Turkey, including recent years. The bill would allow any men who had sex with a girl under the age of consent to be forgiven, and force the girls who have been raped, to marry their abusers.

The proposed legislation does not have a set limit on what the age difference would be, but it is said estimates sit at around 10 to 15 years.

A similar bill was proposed to the Turkish Parliament in 2016 that would have pardoned men who have had sex with underaged girls as long as they did not do it under use of force or threat. However, the bill was quickly shut down when there was an immense cry of outrage from women’s right groups all across the world.

Turkey has often time and time again proposed legislation that promoted and prioritized population growth with traditional family values. This bill in particular was introduced by Turkey’s current governing party, the AKP. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed that the proposal of this bill was a way of combatting Turkey’s increasing child marriage problems. This bill is supposed to address these issues and take convicted felons and make them into fathers and care providers.

On the other hand, there is no shortage of people who disagree with this bill, as well as the intentions behind it. When this bill was announced, women’s rights organisations local to Turkey, as well as all over the globe, were horrified and took a stance against it. A Turkish women’s rights group called ‘We Will Stop Femicide’ along with other groups have turned to activism and rallies in order to protest the bill at hand, as they believe it is the government’s way of eradicating the evidence of violence; and specifically sexual violence against women and girls in Turkey. This legislation has caused outrage across the globe and in the country itself. Young girls and women are protesting for their rights all over the country.

Women’s rights have continued to advance in the past hundred years in many places around the world, including Turkey. Due to the existing persistence and determination of women’s rights groups, as well as activists, legislation that proved harmful to women’s rights in places like Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and Palestine were repealed and loopholes removed in order to protect women’s rights in legal holdings.

Although previously having doubled the sentence on rape convictions. and having said that he does not support violence against women, President Erdogan’s support has been consistent with this bill. Rather than seeing it as a denunciation on women’s rights, he sees it as a way of furthering his agenda and upholding what he believes are familial values.

The Turkish President has expressed many times in the past what he believes a woman’s rule should be in societal and family life. At an International Women and Justice Summit in November of 2014, Erdogan said that “What women need is to have equivalence of worth rather than equality – in other words justice.” He also said that, “You cannot make men and women equal. That is against creation. Their natures are different. Their dispositions are different.”

He has stated that this legislation will help further Turkey’s commitment towards upholding traditional family values; and allowing for the population in Turkey to rise as a result.

However, the United Nation agencies have warned that this “bill would generate a landscape of impunity for child abuse and leave victims vulnerable to experiencing additional mistreatment and distress from their assailants.”

If this bill were to get passed to become a law, there are those who say that women’s rights in Turkey will continue to decline. Legislation such as this deals with the role of women in Turkish society, as well as family life; allowing a bill like this one to simply exist may cause any ground gained by Turkish women in their rights to be lost for good.

Image: Conflict and Development at Texas A&M via Flickr.com

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