Child brides issue tops children’s day agenda

Child brides issue tops children’s day agenda

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Child brides issue tops children’s day agenda

The number of parents trying to marry their underage daughters is rising. Hürriyet photo

Nongovernmental organizations, politicians and academics once again discussed violence against children and child marriage yesterday on Universal Children’s Day.

Gülsün Bilgehan, a deputy from the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP), submitted a parliamentary question requesting Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Şahin’s attention on child marriage. Bilgehan also started an initiative to establish a research commission to work on the issue.

The Turkish Association of University Women (TAUW) has announced the launch of a campaign to raise awareness and call public policymakers to action on child marriage. A written statement by the association said TAUW intended to start a campaign on Nov. 25, the day designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The association also sent a letter to members of Parliament informing them of the fact that the number of parents going to court to get legal permission to marry their underage daughters increased by 94 percent over the previous year, according to the data gathered from judicial records. Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News about this issue, women’s rights attorney Hülya Gülbahar said this increase in families marrying their underage daughters was due to a de facto ban on abortions especially in Anatolian provinces where traditional patriarchal values are highly esteemed by locals. “Doctors and hospitals, both private and public, are under pressure. They have to turn abortion-seeking families away because there has been invisible pressure on them against abortion.”

Niket İşiten, an academic from Istanbul’s private Üsküdar University, released a press statement saying one out of every fifteen children is being abused worldwide, the figures increasing to one in two in some provinces. “One out of every four prepubescent girls is exposed to sexual abuse at least once.

The places where these girls are most susceptible to abuse are not empty streets, but their homes and schools.”

The number of girls married before the age of 15 is expected to double in the next decade, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has warned. By 2020, there will be around 50 million girls married before the age of 15 if current trends continue. Universal Children’s Day is on Nov. 20, by United Nations recommendation, marking the date the Convention on the Rights of the Child, was signed, as well as June 1, and April 23 in Turkey.