VAN - Doğan News Agency
According to the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, one out of every four brides is a child, with families increasingly applying to change their daughters' birthdates so that they can legally marry.
A third of marriages in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern provinces involve brides of minor age, with a significant proportion under the age of fifteen, a study by an NGO in the area has shown.
The study, conducted by KAMER, an NGO focusing on the improvement of women’s conditions and rights, is based on interviews with 60,000 women across 23 provinces.
The results paint a worrying picture of the extent of child marriages, particularly in rural areas, and were announced following the tragic death of yet another child bride in Siirt province made headlines across the country, after she gave birth to her second baby.
“The civil authorities should make partnerships as soon as possible with teachers, imams, the gendarmerie and mukhtars to raise awareness on the issue of child brides. Preventive measures must be adopted in every province, district and village,” KAMER’s Van branch director, Esra Gürcan, said in a written statement.
Among the women interviewed by KAMER, 4,711 were married at 16 or 17 in the last 10 years. Some 2,217 were married between the ages of 13 and 15, while 54 were married at the age of 12 or below.
Referring to the harrowing story of the child bride shot to death in Siirt, Gürcan said this matter represented a big test of women’s right and gender equality.
“If we are talking about a girl married at the age of 11, who died at the age of 14.5 after giving birth to two children, this should be shame for us all,” Gürcan said, urging the authorities to carry a thorough investigation.
“The family that marries the [child bride] off at 11, the man who marries her, whether she gave a premature birth, everything should be questioned,” she added.
The legal age for marriage in Turkey was recently raised to 17 from 15, but many families still change the date of birth of their daughters so they can marry legally.
Experts highlight that laws lack persuasive power and are not enough on their own. Instead, many say, the importance of raising awareness on gender equality should be stressed.