No religious or scientific legitimacy in forcing children into marriage: Turkey’s top religious body
Forcing children into marriage can have no religious or scientific legitimacy, Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) stated on Jan. 5 via sermons read during Friday prayers in mosques across the country, amid a heated debate over the Diyanet’s stance on the matter.
“There is no religious or scientific legitimacy, no foundation for a child who is not yet even aware of her responsibility to her Lord and her environment to be forced into marriage. It is unacceptable to marry a girl who has not reached the age of understanding about how to build a home and be a wife and mother,” read part of the sermon said in the Friday’s sermon, titled “Our heaven on earth: The family.”
“Our Prophet [Muhammad] said a woman should be consulted and give her consent before marriage, the most important decision of her life. Indeed, he said: ‘Do not give your daughters in marriage without their consent.’ This example is just one of the many showing the place, honor and value of women for our Prophet,” the sermon added.
The sermon comes after recent controversy over the Diyanet’s alleged support for the marriage of girls as young as nine. The “Dictionary of Religious Terms” on the Diyanet website had stated that “girls go through puberty at the age of nine and boys at the age of 12,” adding that “those who have gone through puberty may marry.”
On Jan. 3, Diyanet clarified that the lowest age limit for marriage should be 17 for women and 18 for men.
Diyanet official Ekrem Keleş said the statements on the Diyanet website had been “twisted” in media reports.
“A girl should not marry before the age of 17 and a boy should not marry before the age of 18. No one should have their child marry before the age of 15. This is against Islam,” Keleş told daily Hürriyet.
Meanwhile, the Diyanet closed its online “Dictionary for Religious Terms” on Jan. 4 following the controversy that erupted around the issue, with Turkey’s religious affairs agency coming under heavy criticism from political parties and civil society organizations.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Gaye Usluer accused the government of being “more interested in how to marry children off at a young age than talking about children’s education and health.”
CHP deputy Murat Bakan took to Twitter to write that child marriages “violate children’s rights, women’s rights and human rights.”
Bakan added that the CHP had called for a parliamentary investigation into the issue of child marriages, which remains widespread in Turkey. The minimum legal age for marriage in Turkey is 18, though Turkish law allows 17-year-olds to marry with the consent of their parents or guardian and 16-year-olds to marry in “exceptional circumstances” with court approval.