Top Turkish imam says religious weddings without legal equivalent harm women
Diyanet head Mehmet Görmez. AA PhotoReligious marriages conducted without legal marriages harm women and lead to child brides, Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) head Mehmet Görmez has said.
Speaking live on private broadcaster CNNTürk, Görmez admitted there was an ongoing problem in Turkey with religious marriages being conducted without the legal equivalent.
“The existence of this dilemma has led malevolent people to do wrong things and many of our women have been victimized. This has led to many child brides. These topics need to be thought about, while also taking social issues into consideration,” Görmez said. “Every Turkish citizen must first marry legally and then look for an imam.”
A third of marriages in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern provinces involve legal minor brides, with a significant proportion under the age of 15, according to a study by KAMER, an NGO focusing on the improvement of women’s conditions and rights in the region.
Commenting on recent remarks from the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) İzmir women’s branch head that they would apply to the Diyanet for legal marriages to be conducted in mosques, Görmez said such an application would not find a response, as it did not lie within the Diyanet’s authority.
“This dilemma is a permanent problem in Turkey. It even is the reason for many women being made victims because [religious marriages] are not hold legally binding. This is the reason why many child marriages happen, before women gain the necessary qualities to become a mother. It is also the reason why many children become orphans,” he said.
The Diyanet head also said some Turkish citizens had gone to get married in churches in Denmark, which has given religious institutions the authority to wed couples, including Turkish imams sent by the Diyanet. However, he stressed that these imams could not perform legal marriages, as Turkish law does not permit it.
“I say this regrettably, but some of our citizens had to marry in churches. Therefore, this issue has an international aspect,” said Görmez.
Turkey ranked 125th out of 142 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2014, although a 5.7 percent improvement on its overall score has been measured since the report was first published in 2006 and a 1 percent improvement has been made since 2013. Turkey is the lowest performing country from the OECD on the overall index, while also holding the lowest spot from the Europe and Central Asia region, which includes 46 countries.