Deputy PM Bozdağ defends draft law allowing ‘muftis’ to register marriages

Deputy PM Bozdağ defends draft law allowing ‘muftis’ to register marriages

Deputy PM Bozdağ defends draft law allowing ‘muftis’ to register marriages A controversial draft law allowing “muftis,” religious civil servants, to register and conduct marriages will ease formal marriages and protect women in society, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has claimed.

According to a recent draft law on civil registration services, submitted to parliament on July 25, provincial and local muftis within the body of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) will be granted the authority to conduct marriages in Turkey, in addition to state registrars of marriages in municipalities. The draft has drawn outrage from opposition voices, which say it as “an initiation that will inflict another blow to secularism.”

Bozdağ became the first top official to refer to the issue and sought to refute these criticisms via Twitter on July 30. 

“This draft will ease formal marriage and protect women’s marriage rights,” he said, claiming that the revision was not in violation of the principle of secularism. 

“The draft will also not encourage early age marriages. This draft law does not change the legal marriage age or the conditions for citizens to marry,” Bozdağ added. 

“The authorization of muftis to conduct marriages will only encourage and boost formal marriages,” he also said. 

The deputy prime minister stressed that the draft would not force people to apply to muftis to formally marry, adding that this should be seen as “an additional option.”

“This planned regulation will not pave the way for common-law marriages. On the contrary, it gives provincial and local muftis the authority to register and conduct formal marriages,” Bozdağ said.

Draft stirs debate

CHP Manisa deputy Tur Yıldız Biçer had earlier said the draft bill proposal was a violation of the constitution’s principle that rules “all citizens should be treated equally and the state does not discriminate in any way based on race or sect.” 

“This will turn into a process that religious representatives of the majority sect in Turkey will conduct. Will the representatives of other sects and other religions be given this right? But I am not saying this in the sense that [the authority] should be given to others as well. That would also be against secularism,” Biçer said. 

HDP Adana deputy Meral Danış Beştaş, meanwhile, said the practice would “normalize underage marriages.” 

“The draft was previously brought to the agenda and the experts had noted that the practice would normalize marriages at early ages. We are worried that with this regulation, underage marriages will become widespread. Women’s disadvantages from being ‘a partner in imam marriage’ will increase with this regulation,” Beştaş said.