Turkey to debate marriage amnesty for child abusers

The Turkish Parliament is expected to debate this month a highly controversial bill which will overturn a child sex assault conviction if the offender marries his victim, the Middle East Monitor reported on Thursday.

The Turkish government withdrew a similar bill in 2016 after opposition parties and rights groups strongly denounced the move, saying it would legitimise rape and early or forced marriages. 

But the issue remained on the agenda, particularly after some groups started campaigns last year mainly on social media, asking the government to end the injustices against men who are in prison charged with statutory rape due to early marriages. 

Women’s groups staged protests in 45 provinces earlier this month, saying the so-called “marry your rapist” bill will encourage even earlier marriages. 

Although the legal age of consent in Turkey is 18, an estimated 482,908 child marriages took place over the past ten years, according to a government report published in 2018.

“This bill will release scores of men who have been sentenced for committing statutory rape,” said journalist Sara Tor in an op-ed in the Independent on Thursday, citing Turkey’s Hürriyet newspaper, which estimated that the number of men in question currently stands at some 4,000. 

“Whether there will be a limit as to the age difference between the two parties is still undecided. If there is to be one, it will be set at either 10 or 15 years – a small, yet still utterly detestable, concession,” Tor said.