Article allowing muftis to perform marriages passes in Turkish Parliament

Article allowing muftis to perform marriages passes in Turkish Parliament

Article allowing muftis to perform marriages passes in Turkish Parliament

A contentious legal article allowing state religious officials to perform and register marriages was approved at parliament at a late night session on Oct. 18, despite fierce objections from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Half of the 42-article bill, titled “Draft Law on the Amendment of the Civil Registry Services Act and Some Other Laws,” has so far passed in parliament with support from ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) votes in a late-night session.

The omnibus bill will be submitted to a parliamentary vote as a whole after the remaining articles are approved and will go into effect after the general vote.

The bill, which includes the article that allows “muftis,” religious officials from the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), to perform and register marriages, was submitted to parliament on July 25 and has drawn strong criticisms from opposition parties and women’s rights groups.

The current law assigns state registrars in local municipalities to record marriages, and critics of the new regulation argue that it will pave the way for “unrecorded marriages” and “child marriages.” They also say it violates the secular principles of Turkey’s civil code and will compromise the civil rights of women, including the right to divorce and heredity.

The CHP and the HDP have requested that the article be excluded from the draft law, arguing that it is against the constitution. However, this request was rejected during the late night session at parliament.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed in a speech last week that the law would pass “whether you like it or not.”

Speaking at parliament about the draft, CHP İzmir lawmaker Murat Bakan blasted the proposal, saying “You are making all segments of the state - from education to marriage - religious. This is exactly the opposite [of secularism].”

Meanwhile, CHP Group Deputy Chair Özgür Özel announced on Oct. 19 that the party will apply to the Constitutional Court for the cancellation of the contentious article. “We will continue to object and uncover the issue legally, at the Constitutional Court, and also politically,” he said.

In another move, the CHP has also drafted a suggestion to grant local muhtars (neighborhood heads) the right to perform marriages.

Defending the law, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Group Chair Naci Bostancı said the article is a “regulation within civil life, not religious life.”

“A ‘mufti marriage’ is categorically a civil marriage. The marriage itself and its legal consequences are the same as the municipality marriages that are currently carried out,” Bostancı said.

“It also has nothing to do with child marriages,” he added.