A step toward the primitive

A step toward the primitive

Turkey is not only going backward in leaps and bounds in terms of all the social gains secured under its secular republic, but has also started taking a step toward the primitive. It is mind-boggling that a government can even think of coming up with legislation that will allow men who rape minors to escape punishment if they marry the child they raped.

This is what the government – which even made some headway in parliament before causing an outcry – is proposing. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ claims they are not legalizing rape or child abuse with this proposal. 

He says there are thousands of “families” that are “suffering” because the girl/woman involved was legally a minor when she was married (meaning of course, “married off by the family.”) He says, among the other difficulties they “suffer,” that these “families” can’t have their children registered because this would reveal that statutory rape was involved.  

Critics say, which much public support, that what the government is trying to do is bring an amnesty to those who should be tried and sent to prison for having sex with minors. 

There is also an Islamic side to this, as explained by an Islamist writer who once ran to be a deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).  

According to Vahdettin İnce, there is nothing wrong under Islam with marrying a girl off as long as she is over 12 years old. He believes that laws on statutory rape that have their origin in Europe are out of tune with the culture we have in predominantly Muslim Turkey. 

A ray of hope in all this is that even the women’s organization headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s daughter raised alarm bells over this proposal. This shows how serious the matter is given that women’s groups that hail from the Islamist camp have generally acted as apologists for the male-dominated authorities that take steps to limit women’s rights and privileges. 

Civilized Turks are worried that the proposal supported by Bozdağ will also open the door to minors aged 12-18 being given freely by their families to men aged 50 or 60 years old. This is known to happen in Turkey’s ultra-conservative communities already. 

In other words, the government is only concerned with protecting the rights of older aged statutory rapists, rather than girls who are minors and who have become pregnant from either their boyfriends or due to some youthful misadventure. The usual answer in conservative circles to such cases where young persons are involved is to kill the girl or the boy or both – for the sake of “honor.”

There are also plenty of cases of rape and child abuse committed by young people in this country, of course, which is also a problem that is waiting to be addressed seriously.

Thankfully, though, not everyone in this country has lost their moral compass in the name of subjective interpretations of Islam. The outcry – even from women who are Islamist opinion makers – has forced the government to think twice about what it is trying to do.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has instructed Bozdağ to work with opposition parties to come out with draft legislation that is acceptable to all. Bozdağ has also met with women’s groups to hear their grievances on the subject. 

Even these steps are disingenuous, though, because they reveal that the government is still trying to save its proposed legislation by spreading the blame. The bottom line is that no one in their right mind can support such legislation in any shape or form.

If there are those who fear they may be tried for statuary rape they are right to be fearful. They should be held to account by law as there is no conceivable way in which a girl of 12 or 13 could have consented to marrying a man three or four or five times her age. 

As for the young mothers from these forced marriages, they and their children should be offered state protection instead of being left to the mercy of the brutes that violated them.