Turkish religious marriage law is slippery slope, say activists

Activists and opposition politicians in Turkey have criticised a new law that allows religious officials to conduct legal marriage ceremonies, saying they believe it could legitimise future legislation that would disempower women and increase religious pressure on society, the Guardian newspaper said.

“From the way this draft law was prepared without the participation of sides who will be affected, such as muftis or women’s groups, it is a sign of an enforcement of an idea,” the newspaper quoted opposition member of parliament Selina Doğan as saying.

“One man (President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) has the power and a change to a political Islamist regime is planned,” she said.

Activists are worried the new law, which came into force last week, will be the first in a series of attempts to replace present legislation with alternative rules that would make child marriage easier, divorce and abortion harder, and promote Islamic marriages without reference to the state, the newspaper said.

Supporters of the law denied it created a loophole to allow child marriage or polygamy and said it allowed the religiously observant to have just one marriage service instead of having to go through both a religious and a civil ceremony.