Survey sheds light on severity of Turkey’s child marriage problem
A recent survey carried out by the Women’s Research Center at Ankara’s Gazi University has shed light on the severity of the problem of child marriages in Turkey, with many girls forced into marriages to “cover up sexual abuse,” daily Cumhuriyet reported on Jan. 21.
The survey, which was carried out among 600 girls, including 300 pregnant girls, brought to hospitals, revealed that many of the underage girls forced into marriage come from already difficult backgrounds.
“Before getting married 25 percent of the girls said they had no friends. Twenty percent said they have friends but are not permitted to meet them. Fifty percent have never gone to a cinema or theater. Sixty percent do not have access to the internet. Eleven percent say they do not share their problems with their families. The situation gets even worse after their marriage, with 66 percent saying they are left with no friends at all,” read the survey, undertaken by Associate Professor Selda Sivaslıoğlu.
However, many of the girls reported that they are “happy” with their marriages, believing that they have gained “status” through them under the label of “housewife,” Sivaslıoğlu said, adding that many girls “choose” marriage as the only option left in order to not be an “economic burden” on their families.
Among the interviewed girls, 25 percent got married to relatives. Some 75 percent said they decided to have a baby together with their husband and 78 percent said they and take decisions jointly with their spouse in every matter.
However, the report warned of the “problematic relationship” that many children born of child marriages have with their parents
“As the girls who have been married off are naturally lack knowledge about sexual relations, protection from pregnancy, pregnancy itself, miscarriages, being a mother and infant nutrition, problems arise for the mother, the baby and society,” read the report.
“Child marriage, which is a violation of rights according to international agreements and many international laws, deprive girls of their education and limit them from joining professional life. Complications during the pregnancy and delivery also sometime result in the death of the girls,” it added.
The survey comes after shock over news reports about an Istanbul hospital’s failure to report underage pregnant girls. A social worker at the Kanuni Sultan Süleyman Training and Research Hospital in Istanbul’s Küçükçekmece district recently revealed that the hospital treated 115 pregnant underage girls, including 39 Syrian nationals, between Jan. 1 and May 9 last year. The hospital tried to cover up the pregnancies and did not notify the authorities, which is a legal requirement for the treatment of all pregnant girls younger than 18 years old in Turkey.
Turkish Women Associations Federation (TKDF) head Canan Güllü said such examples are “only the tip of the iceberg.”
She also said child pregnancies are particularly commonly seen among Syrian refugees in Turkey.
“We are currently undertaking extensive research regarding the camps where Syrian refugees are staying, looking into the situation of children and women in these camps. The report that we will prepare will be expose many sexual abuse incidents against refugees,” she added.