Child marriages make up one third in Turkey

Child marriages make up one third in Turkey

İZMİR – Doğan News Agency
Child marriages make up one third in Turkey

One third of marriages in Turkey involve underage girls, according to a women’s rights lawyer speaking at a conference that was called to tackle the problem.

“There are 181,036 child brides in our country, unfortunately,” İzmir Bar Association Central Executive Board Member and women’s rights advocate Nuriye Kadan said during the conference in İzmir on Dec. 6.

The actual number is probably far higher because many child marriages are performed with only the presence of an imam and are not officially registered with authorities, she said.

“Nearly 20,000 parents filed applications to marry off their under-16 girls in 2012,” Kadan added.

“Some 97.4 percent of the students who do not further their education for marital reasons are female,” Kadan said, adding that problems arising from pregnancy and giving were prominent reasons for the deaths of young girls aged between 15 and 19.

Emphasizing that “child marriages is a major violation of children’s rights,” Kadan said one-third of marriages in Turkey were child marriages according to the results of the Turkey Population and Health Research.

Turkish society’s patriarchal and traditional mindset has led many to internalize and legitimize the processes that force underage young girls into marriage, she said.

“We must all share the burden of responsibility to fight child marriages. We must wage a comprehensive campaign to create awareness on this,” former State Minister Işılay Saygın said in the opening ceremony of the conference.

Saygın said child marriages could be prevented through education.

“Child marriages occasioned by force and threats should be punished,” Yaşar University Law Professor Mustafa Ruhan Erdem said.

Forced marriage is a major violation of human rights, Erdem said, while adding that child marriage was not defined as a criminal act in Turkey.

“Marriage should be based on free will according to international law. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence Turkey signed in 2011, mandates the enactment of laws which regard intentional acts forcing any adult or child into marriage as a ‘crime.’ Forced marriage should not be left unpunished,” he added.

The conference was organized by Gediz University Law School and Women and Family Research Center (GenDes).  

Participants at the conference included Kadan, Erdem, Ege University Medical School Professor Meltem Çiçeklioğlu, Ege University Communication School academic Oğuzhan Kavaklı, Gediz University Law School academic Sibel Safi and Health Sciences academic Esin Zengin Taş.