Turkey made a mistake by not criminalizing adultery to join EU: Erdoğan
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the government was wrong to shelve an attempt to criminalize adultery and extra-marital sex (zina) in 2004, an issue that caused a major row between Turkey and the EU during accession talks at the time.
“This society holds a different status in terms of its moral values,” Erdoğan said at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) weekly parliamentary group meeting in Ankara on Feb. 20.
“This is self-criticism. I must say that in the EU process we made a mistake ... We should now evaluate making regulations about adultery and perhaps consider it together with the issue of harassment and others,” he added.
“This is an issue where Turkey is different from most Western countries,” Erdoğan said.
The president also went on to signal that the death penalty could once again be brought to the agenda.
“Of course, the death penalty is not currently legal. But the issue of the death penalty is especially important for us due to its relationship to terror. Changes in the constitution about this could come up,” he said.
A so-called “adultery law” had come onto the agenda in 2004 as part of a package of sweeping changes to the penal code, which also included the abolition of torture. Many of the changes were seen as an attempt to bring Turkey’s legal code into line with European human rights legislation, but the “adultery law” drew outrage both within Turkey and abroad.
Under huge pressure from the EU, Ankara back-pedaled from the bill in September 2004.
Adultery had been illegal in Turkey until 1996, when the Constitutional Court overturned the law, saying it was unequally applied. Under earlier laws, men were deemed adulterers if they were proven to have been involved in a prolonged affair, while women could be charged if they were unfaithful once.