Shopkeepers against underage marriage

Shopkeepers against underage marriage

Two campaigns by separate industries are battling against child marriage in two parts of Turkey: One, in the northwestern province of Yalova and the other in the eastern province of Van.

In an initiative that Life, Women, Environment, Culture and Business Cooperation (Yaka-Koop) in Van started four years ago, hairdressers are putting up signs in their shops that say “Hair will not be done for child brides.” Cooks are refusing to prepare food for child marriage ceremonies and music bands are rejecting to perform at such events.

In Yalova, tailors refuse to fix gowns for child brides and hairdressers do not provide service for underage girls who want to get their hair or make-up done.

Both campaigns have volunteers who help raise awareness on the battle against child marriage and help influence local decision-makers.

Cooperating with local shopkeepers is one of the ways to go about in going against the concept of child marriage, yet there are many more routes to pursue if we want to root such a concept out of our society.

Flying Broom Women’s Communications and Research Organization and its Collective for Public Gender Studies have brought together experts who work to prevent child marriages.

The panel titled “Marriage at an Early Age Comes at a Big Price: New Strategies, Public-NGO Dialogue and Cooperation in Battling Child Marriages” was attended by 53 experts who work in the fields of humanitarian aid, religion, gender, refugees, media and communications and violence against women.

It is not possible for religion to promote child marriage and it is unlikely one would see child marriage happening in a genuinely devout community, said Aybala Tuba Yurtlu, an employee of the Religious Affairs Directorate.

Ignore the way “religious leaders” talk about child marriage in a way that promotes them. They are simply abusers of the religion.

Imams, in fact, should be a part of the discussion in preventing child marriage in our country.

Gülmay Gümüşhan, from the Yaka-Koop in Van, discussed how she received expert help from the Flying Broom Organization, working in 97 villages where marriage among children and relatives are common.

When they understood how those over 50 are hard to influence, they started to focus on children and youth and reached out to imams and village heads. As their works gained pace, local shopkeepers also joined the mission, Gümüşhan said.

“Social gender inequality is at the root of the child marriage problem,” said Pınar Öktem from UNICEF. Şevkat Özvarış from HÜKSAM said the term “social gender” was not even included in the action plan prepared against child marriage by the Family and Social Affairs Ministry.

Without the term “social gender” taking its place in the phases of this action plan, it is not possible to crack the problem. Cooperation and solidarity of forces is a must in this matter.

Offices such as the government’s Women’s Status Chief Directorate and Parliament’s Gender Equality Commission, which are gradually weakening, have been maintaining their relationship with women’s centers and women’s organizations at universities, but these and more should be reinforced as soon as possible.

No one can solve the problem of child marriage in this country on their own.

Melis Alphan, hdn, Opinion