At least 232,313 child brides wed since 2010: Ministry
ANKARAThe number of girls who were wed before the age of 18 since 2010 is higher than 200,000, Turkey’s Family and Social Planning Ministry has said in response to a parliamentary inquiry by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
In a written statement to CHP Istanbul deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Minister Sema Ramazanoğlu released annual child bride figures as noted by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK). Accordingly, a total 45,738 girls aged 16 or 17 married in 2010. The figure was 42,700 for 2011, 40,428 for 2012, 37,481 for 2013, 34,629 for 2014 and 31,337 for 2015.
However, the total number of 232,313 girls who were wed since 2010 only includes official marriages, with the real figure believed to be much higher.
Ramazanoğlu said the ministry was coordinating efforts with public institutions, universities and civil society organizations to prevent underage marriages and explained efforts that will be carried out as part of the 2013-2017 National Child Rights Strategy and Action Plan.
Accordingly, the plan will include work on designating girls who are not receiving formal education and child brides who give birth at early ages while opening legal proceedings into such cases. Ramazanoğlu said the action plan would also involve research into the underlying reasons for underage and forced marriages.
“TV shows and written media that encourage early and forced marriages will be designated and necessary precautions will be taken. Systematic measures will be taken, rather than local ones, in order to provide formal education to children who are seasonal agricultural workers. The conditional cash transfer project being conducted by our ministry also includes positive discrimination to enable girls’ education,” Ramazanoğlu said.
The minister, however, evaded a complete answer to a question regarding the possible effects of a controversial May 2015 Constitutional Court decision which legalized the right to be religiously married without obtaining a civil marriage, asking whether this change would increase the number of child brides.
Ramazanoğlu argued the decision, which at the time drew widespread criticism for paving the way for the unofficial marriages of minors, did not evade the necessity of civil marriages but rather lifted punishment on solely religious marriages.
During a separate meeting on April 19 organized to encourage parents to open dowry accounts for their children, Ramazanoğlu said the average age of marriage was 23.9 for women and 27 for men, according to TÜİK’s 2015 figures. The figures rose from 22.2 for women and 25.5 for men in 2001.
The issue of child marriages is a pressing issue for Turkey, with rights groups warning against the drastic numbers of juvenile marriage. CHP deputy chair Lale Karabıyık announced on April 18 the results of a “social deterioration” report, suggesting Turkey had at least 181,036 child brides, adding that they believed the actual was much higher given that such marriages are predominantly conducted through religious procedures and are not officially recorded.