Turkey’s religious body issues fatwa against underage marriage
ISTANBULTurkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) has issued a fatwa against underage marriages, saying they “shattered the lives of children.”
The fatwa, included in a release responding to frequently asked questions from the public, said underage marriage could never be approved from a religious perspective.
It added that underage marriage put children “under biological, psychological and economic burdens they cannot deal with, as it also causes them to fall behind in their education and stops them from having a proper childhood.”
The fatwa noted that the practice is wrong both between underage couples and between one underage person and an adult.
The note came at a time when Turkish authorities have moved to overhaul a law on child abuse, prompted by public outrage that peaked after a controversial decision was taken by the Constitutional Court in July.
According to a decision taken by the Court that went into effect on July 13, not all sexual acts against children under the age of 15 will be regarded as “sexual abuse.”
The decision stirred outrage from academics and women’s rights activists, who warned that it would lead to cases of child abuse going unpunished. The ruling of the court, which was an annulment of an earlier local court ruling, also echoed abroad, with Austria and Sweden issuing condemnations.
Following a diplomatic spat between Sweden and Turkey, authorities in Ankara moved to increase - rather than decrease – minimum sentences for child abuse.
As part of the plans initiated by Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, gradual punishments based on the age of the victims will go into law.
The law aims to make a distinction made between victims aged under 12 and those aged between 12 and 18, with the new law toughening sentences for offenders targeting children under 12.
In sexual abuse cases with victims under the age of 12, the minimum sentence will be 10 years, while in rape cases with victims under 12 the minimum sentence will be 18 years.
In sexual abuse cases with victims aged between 12 and 18, the current sentence term of eight to 15 years will remain the same, while in rape cases with victims aged between 12 and 18, the current minimum sentence of 16 years in jail will also remain the same.