Outrage over AKP motion said to let abusers avoid prosecution if they marry child victim

Outrage over AKP motion said to let abusers avoid prosecution if they marry child victim

Outrage over AKP motion said to let abusers avoid prosecution if they marry child victim

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Men guilty of sexually abuse of children may avoid being prosecuted if they get married to the victim, according to a controversial motion proposed by members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that has been harshly criticized by opposition parties.

In cases of sexual abuse of children committed before Nov. 16 “without force or threat,” if the perpetrator marries his victim the sentence will be postponed or the execution of the offence will be adjourned, according to the draft. 

Under the present civil code, marriage under the age of 17 is prohibited. The marriage of children aged 16 is subject to court action, while according to the criminal law a public case is opened automatically for all sexual offenses against children 15 years old and under.

Hospitals and schools are obliged to notify the authorities of early marriages upon learning of such cases, such as if an underage girl goes to hospital to give birth. As public cases are currently opened automatically when the girl is 15, the male responsible is tried for sexual abuse regardless of their age.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on Nov. 18 that such early marriages are “common,” and around 3,000 men are currently in prison due to the current law. 

“The courts only consider the age and give sentences of 16 years regardless of circumstances. They do not consider whether the underage marriage has happened with or without the consent of the traditions of the families,” he said.

The 49-article draft amending the code of criminal procedure was issued in parliament at night session on Nov. 17. The article passed but the bill did not receive a majority vote, meaning the articles have not been validated yet. The assembly will gather to vote on the entire bill again on Nov. 22.

The motion has angered all three opposition parties, as well as women’s associations, who say it would encourage forced marriages and legalize marriage to rapists. 

CHP Group Deputy Chair Özgür Özel said the motion was approved by just one vote and claimed that Bozdağ had “strategically” issued it at the last minute of the session on Nov 17.

“If a 50 or 60 year-old is told to marry an 11-year-old after raping her, and then marries her years later, she will suffer the consequences. If you give him a pass through marriage, the young girl will live in a prison for her whole life,” CHP Muğla deputy Ömer Süha Aldan said. 

Aldan said the motion would “encourage forced marriages and legalize marriage to rapists.” 

Right after the AKP’s move, the CHP requested the establishment of a parliamentary research committee for investigating abuse of children, the party announced in a written statement. 

“The motion that they tried to pass last night has severely damaged the reputation of our parliament,” the Nov. 18 statement read. 

Experts criticize motion 

Federation of Women’s Associations President Canan Güllü also criticized the draft, saying all early marriages should be banned.

“There are around 4,000 cases where a public case was opened because of an early marriage. Families pressed girls aged 11 to 17 to marry unlawfully, and public action is filed when the girl gives birth at hospital or when schools notice the situation,” Güllü told the Hürriyet Daily News on Nov. 18.

Meanwhile, the Women and Democracy Association (KADEM) has issued a statement, saying one of the biggest problems with the bill is its failure to determine elements related to "compulsion, threat and will."
KADEM also questioned how the "willpower” of a girl will be determined in such cases, suggesting that new regulations could be made on the issue.

She also said “legal disinformation” caused great problems and described Bozdağ’s comments that the motion “does not cover child abuse” as “misleading.”

MHP Group Deputy Chair Erkan Akçay said the motion is “outrageous” and “impossible to accept.” 

Yıldırım slams CHP

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım rejected opposition criticism, saying that suffering occurred because “there are families who do not know the law” and adding that such suffering will be eliminated with this one-time regulation.

“There are children who are married at an early age. They [the families] do not know the law. Their children have to go to jail. Couple [who marry underage] might have their own children but the father has to go to jail and the children are left alone. We have determined that there are currently 3,000 families in such situation,” Yıldırım said on Nov. 18.

“The victimization of those 3,000 families will be eliminated for just one time with this motion. The CHP is trying to distort the issue. This is not an amnesty for rape. Our government has introduced the most serious punishments for rape. If there are such marriages [forced after rape], they will not be tolerated in any way,” he added.

“In the past there were families who did not know the existence of such punishments and whose families have been ruined. They suffer because their children are left alone with their mother while their father is in jail,” Yıldırım said.