Child marriage a taboo for Turkey, Dutch Princess says

Child marriage a taboo for Turkey, Dutch Princess says

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Child marriage a taboo for Turkey, Dutch Princess says

Moderator Oylum Talu (L), Girls not Brides head Mabel von Oranje (C) and Dr. Tererai Trent from Zimbabwe’s Tinogona Foundation spoke on child brides. Courtesy of Sabancı Foundation

Child marriage is a fact in Turkey, with 28 percent of all marriages involving children under 18, but it remains taboo and laws restricting it are not implemented, the International Girls Not Brides head and Dutch Princess Mabel van Oranje has said.

Oranje’s comments were made yesterday at a meeting titled “Challenging Impossible” held by the Sabancı Foundation in Istanbul.

The contentious issue of child brides in Turkey is not getting any better, according to Oranje, who blasted the current situation in Turkey and the lack of headway being made in policy on the matter.
“The Turkish Parliament’s Committee on Equal Opportunity for Women and Men wrote a report in 2009.

It’s a very interesting report and it has a series of very good recommendations, but unfortunately little action is taking place to implement these recommendations,” she said.

The Dutch princess said the issue remained a taboo and that first of all acknowledgement that child marriage existed and was harmful for children and society was necessary.

“We need to break the taboo of not talking about this issue and we all need to have role in abolishing it,” Oranje added.

According to UNICEF, Turkey has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Europe, but the figures vary depending on the amount of data available and the region surveyed. For example, according to a national study, the average national rate of child marriage is 28 percent, but it reaches as high as 41 percent in the eastern and southeastern regions.

The philanthropy seminar took place in at the Sabancı Foundation headquarters with the attendance of Oranje and Dr. Tererai Trent from Zimbabwe’s Tinogona (Achievable) Foundation.

In 2012, the Sabancı Foundation became partners with the Girls Not Brides platform in the struggle to end child marriages in Turkey.

“Sabancı cannot do it by itself, we all need to be involved,” Oranje said, adding that a law against such marriages existed but was not being implemented.

“We don’t know very well [the real data]. There is a lack of info. Some 28 percent of girls marry before they turn 18. But we don’t know the exact data because these marriages are done through religious marriages, which are not registered. They are not legally recognized,” she said.

“It is happening more in the east of the country but it’s also happening in the west in cities like in Istanbul,” she added.

Meanwhile, Sabancı Holding Chairwoman Güler Sabancı said girls should continue their education until the age of at least 18 to demand their own options, as this was their most fundamental human right, in a message sent to the attendees.

“Sometimes the problem’s dimensions require a global organization and action, it is hard to achieve but not impossible. What we need is a social leader who can realize a radical change and challenges impossibilities,” Sabancı said.

Over one in every four brides is a child, as families are increasingly applying to the court to change the date of birth of their daughters so they can legally marry, an association of Turkish female lawyers warned on May 4.

The legal age for marriage in Turkey was recently raised to 17 from 15, but the commission members said this limit should be increased to 18.

On average, 14 million girls get married every year around the world, which means that every two seconds one girl under 18 gets married.