The child abuse bill should be withdrawn completely

The child abuse bill should be withdrawn completely

It was excellent to see women banding together and making their voices heard on the government’s recent child sex abuse bill. They were able to solve part of this issue. But a significant part of it is still there.  

The remaining part of the bill still suggests that the age of consent should be lowered from 15 to 12, meaning that underage marriage to which young girls could be subjected may still be permitted, and rapists could get away with it under legal justification that there was “consent.” 

We should continue to resist and fight. 

According to Canan Güllü, the head of the Federation of Women’s Associations of Turkey (TKDF), the initial withdrawal of the motion is not enough. The bill should be withdrawn completely. “Even though the bill suggests increasing the penalty for rapists of children under the age of 12, it actually allows children under 12 to get married, citing ‘consent for sexual relations,’” Güllü said.

Even though the bill is claimed to increase the penalty for rape of children under the age of 12, in fact it introduces age discrimination for child rapes. It enables a lowering of the legal age to marry to 12. 

Article 103 of the Turkish Penal Code openly states that “consent” for sexual acts is not acceptable under the age of 15. But this bill will somehow legally approve the forced marriage of children above the age of 12, justified by excuses like “customs,” “traditions,” and “religion.”

Güllü said child and sexual abuse matters were above politics. “Everybody reacted against the motion.

 International organizations, men and women took the streets, everybody was outraged. The conservative [Women and Democracy Association] KADEM was equally disturbed and told me that ‘Everybody worked very hard throughout this process. We were sleep deprived for four days because we were working on this,’” she added.

I asked Güllü whether this was the start of a road to women’s salvation in Turkey, giving us the message to unite regardless of our political views. She agreed, saying that everybody whose common ground is women, whatever their political ideology may be, should act together. 

Even though most of this controversial bill has been withdrawn, there is still uncertainty about lowering the age of consent from 15 to 12. There is a possibility that this clause may be enacted. Güllü said they are still anxious. Indeed, she and other members of the TKDF were in parliament to meet with deputies of all political parties. They hope the bill will be withdrawn completely so that discussions on the “consent” of 12-year-olds are stopped. 

If this portion of the bill is not withdrawn completely, then a 13-year-old girl would be said to have “consented” if she did not scream while she was being raped. 

While the debates were ongoing and Justice Minister Bozdağ was still trying to defend the bill, we found out that governors and district governors in certain provinces had participated in underage marriages and given gold as gifts to underage “married” couples. 

For instance, Güllü says officials who participated at a wedding in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas should be investigated, based on the statement of the justice minister.

If this bill is not completely removed, there will be no investigations on families who sell their children to 50 or 60-year-old men in exchange for a dowry, money, gold, sheep or cows. 

Güllü said that because there is the issue of “consent,” minors will be forced to “consent” and this lead to obstructing penalties.  

I asked Güllü about the claims on children who are supposedly able to marry as soon as they reach puberty, regardless of their age. “Only those who use religion as a tool for their sexual fantasies think this way. They are putting these little bodies into the grave,” she said.