Istanbul social worker braves consequences to leak hospital child pregnancy scandal
Dinçer Gökçe - ISTANBUL
The social worker who notified the prosecutor’s office about an Istanbul hospital’s failure to report underage pregnant girls to the authorities spoke to Hürriyet on Jan. 18, describing her shock in the face of such a scandal, which has shaken Turkey.
“At one point a 16-year-old girl came to the hospital for labor. I also went in the labor room. I can still today hear her cries of horror,” said the 32-year-old psychologist, identified in reports only as “İclal N.,” describing one case in which a sexual assault victim could not have an abortion and had to go through with the birth.
“Thinking about those kids, I decided to pursue this issue to the end,” she added.
İclal N. eventually revealed that the Kanuni Sultan Süleyman Training and Research Hospital in Istanbul’s Küçükçekmece district treated 115 pregnant underage girls, including 39 Syrian nationals, between Jan. 1 and May 9 last year. She also stated that the hospital failed to notify the authorities, which is a legal requirement for treating pregnant girls younger than 18 years old.
The situation only came to light after İclal N. notified the Küçükçekmece Prosecutor’s Office. The authorities have started a number of investigations into the scandal since the original report on Jan. 17.
“Around 450-500 pregnant girls younger than 18 years old come into the hospital per year on average,” said İclal N. who has been working at the hospital since 2012.
“Our duty is to notify the authorities upon interacting with an underage pregnant girl,” she added.
Yet it seems that the hospital had a different view.
“It first happened when a 17-year-old girl checked into the hospital. She was understood to be pregnant but this was not notified to the authorities,” the whistleblower said of the time she began working at the social services department of the hospital in May 2017.
“I asked the staff member on duty for her notification paperwork and found out there was none.”
Determined to look into the issue, İclal N. checked her own department’s files. “I only checked the dates between Jan. 1, 2017 and May 9, 2017. I didn’t even check previous years,” she said of the time she spotted 115 unnotified underage pregnancy cases.
She then reported the situation to the hospital authorities on June 12, 2017, but the hospital authorities relocated her within the hospital twice in response.
After hearing of no progress in the case, İclal N. decided to go to the prosecutor’s office with her lawyer.
Since Hürriyet published the story on Jan. 17, the scandal has made headlines throughout the country and a number of ministries and association heads have had to make public statements.
The Küçükçekmece Prosecutor’s Office says investigations have been launched into two civil servants at the hospital, while the Health Ministry and the Family Ministry have also launched separate investigations into the situation.
According to records at the Kanuni Sultan Süleyman Training and Research Hospital, of the 115 girls revealed by İclal N., 77 got pregnant between the ages of 15 and 18 and the remaining 38 got pregnant before the age of 15.
According to regulations that should be enforced by the Health Ministry, police should be notified in all cases where the pregnant girl is younger than 18. Cases involving children younger than 15 automatically qualify as “sexual abuse.”