Married at 11, mother at 12

Married at 11, mother at 12

In the eastern province Diyarbakır, an 11-year-old girl was married to a 14-year-old boy, arranged by their families. An imam preformed the rites, which is illegal in Turkey. 

The girl gave birth to her first child one year later while she was only 12. When the newborn was registered in 2013 at the Birth Registration Office, officers noticed the age of the mother and reported it to a state prosecutor. 

The office of the public prosecutor launched an investigation and prepared an indictment where the groom, his parents and the victim’s parents were charged with the “sexual abuse of a child.” In the indictment, it has been highlighted that the victim was married in 2006 through an arrangement of the families and she has since given birth to two children. The victim’s birth date was Sept. 15, 1994 and she was married when she was 12. The abuse continued until Sept. 15, 2009, the prosecutor noted. The suspects were committing a collective crime. 

The father of the victim claimed his daughter had chosen to marry on her free will, while the father of the groom said there had been no force involved and that both sides were willing to get married. Her first child was born on Feb. 21, 2007. Since a baby cannot be born in five months, the crime occurred when the victim was 11 years old, not 12. Apparently the prosecutor missed this detail. 

Legally, there is no difference between an 11-year-old and a 12-year-old being married, but it does show the graveness of the situation. 

When these are the facts, how do you think the court rules? 

The child, who was 11 years old at the time of the crime, was presented as if she was between 15 and 18 years of age and the case was dismissed. Even though the victim and the defendants say the date of the wedding was 2006, the justified decision stated that it was 2009. 

This ruling reflects an issue in mentality. The court, by openly cheating, has shaped the situation to fit into this mentality. 

This mentality regards such cases as consensual marriages, even if the bride is an 11-year-old child, because they are “happy,” they have two children. It is this masculine mentality that thinks, “This is possible in Turkish society and traditions.” This is clearly what the four people in the court, the chief judge, two member judges and the prosecutor, saw.

Diyarbakır Bar Center of Child Rights Head Gazal Bayram Koluman said the boy who was married at age 14 was also a victim. “The real criminals are the parents who made the boy commit this crime, the imam and everybody who participated in the wedding. The law is clear. In the case of abuse, anyone who has witnessed it should report it to the authorities,” she said. 

Another incident Koluman refers to explains this widespread mentality in the justice system: 

A sexually abused child was at the Child Monitoring Center (ÇİM). The prosecutor refused to go to the ÇİM.

When Koluman asked why, the prosecutor answered, “Ms. Lawyer, there is a different situation here. When she asked, “What is the situation?” the prosecutor answered, “There is a child bride there. They will reach an agreement tomorrow. I will want the statement of the child taken at police minor’s department, not at the ÇİM. And we will close this case.”

As a matter of fact, this child had been married by force and had experienced sex once. She was beaten by her husband because there was no sex for five months. Then she ran away from home.    

When similar incidents and child abuse occur in Turkey, justice is blocked by the mentality of these judges and prosecutors, who happen to be in abundant in this country.