On Jan­u­ary 6th 2020 at 11 AM, 198 wom­en’s orga­ni­za­tions and asso­ci­a­tions held simul­ta­ne­ous press con­fer­ences in 48 cities across Turkey, denounc­ing the pro­ject­ed amnesty law con­cern­ing child abuse.

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This huge ini­tia­tive was launched by two plat­forms Nafa­ka Hakkı and TCK 103 Kadın in order to denounce yet anoth­er new pro­posed law that would offer a reprieve to the aggres­sor “when the child mar­ries him”, con­di­tion­al on the age dif­fer­ence between them being no more than 15 or 10 years. In oth­er words, this amnesty opens the door wide to impunity…

The cur­rent debate at the AKP cen­ters on the age dif­fer­ence between the child and the adult : 15 or 10 years? The lat­est news indi­cat­ing that the major­i­ty would tend toward the 15 year dif­fer­ence. The pro­ject­ed leg­is­la­tion should ffol­low dis­cus­sion on the 2020 bud­get at the Nation­al Assembly.

Here are the argu­ments made by the orga­ni­za­tions dur­ing the press conferences.

From deletions to reforms, as time goes by…

In 2005 already, a sim­i­lar piece of leg­is­la­tion failed because of the strug­gle by wom­ens’ orga­ni­za­tions, asso­ci­a­tions for child pro­tec­tion and human rights. But the regime con­tin­ued its under­hand­ed work, step by step…

First, the oblig­a­tion for a civ­il mar­riage pri­or to the reli­gious mar­riage was abol­ished in 2015. At the time, the law con­demned cou­ples to a jail sen­tence of 2 to 6 months if they pro­ceed­ed with a reli­gious mar­riage pri­or to the offi­cial one. Defendors of rights had not­ed that, giv­en this mod­i­fi­ca­tion, many peo­ple would no longer mar­ry offi­cial­ly. As a con­se­quence, divorces/desertions, legal prob­lems con­cern­ing the chil­dren’s affil­i­a­tion and the attri­bu­tion of alimo­ny would increase, to the detri­ment of the chil­dren and of women.

Then, in March 2016, fol­low­ing rev­e­la­tions of sex­u­al abuse on 45 chil­dren com­mit­ted with­in a reli­gious order han­dling hous­ing for chil­dren, and  extrem­ly close to the regime, then-min­is­ter for the fam­i­ly, Sema Ramazanoğlu spoke the fol­los­ing sen­tence for­ev­er inscribed in the his­to­ry of Turkey. Insist­ing on the “respectabil­i­ty” of the foun­da­tion in ques­tion, she declared: Once isn’t serious.”

In 2017, with­in the same reform autho­riz­ing reli­gious author­i­ties to per­form civil­ian mar­riages, the State allowed the direc­tors of civil­ian iden­ti­ty logs to enter births that had occurred out­side all med­ical fol­low-up, on the basis of a sim­ple oral dec­la­ra­tion. This pos­si­bil­i­ty became effec­tive in June 2018 with the estab­lish­ment of elec­tron­ic registration.

mariage enfant mariée

A care­ful look reveals that, since 2016, the regime has attempt­ed to estab­lish reforms and prac­tices open­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty to forced pre­ma­ture mar­riages of chil­dren, and of ren­der­ing legal   facts of abuse on them. Despite all the protests and strug­gles by the orga­ni­za­tions work­ing for women and chil­dren’s pro­tec­tion, a pack of laws was pro­mul­gat­ed in 2016 reform­ing the law on abuse of chil­dren. Mod­i­fi­ca­tions to para­graphs 1 and 2 of arti­cle 103 in the Turk­ish penal code low­ered the age lim­it to 12 years. With this reform, abuse on chil­dren less than 12 years old are the only ones cov­ered by heavy sen­tences, but no expla­na­tion was pro­vid­ed to pub­lic opin­ion on the rea­sons and argu­ments moti­vat­ing the cut-off at the age of 12.

Since the age dif­fer­en­tial clause now under debate is of 10 or 15 years between the abused child and the abuser, in real terms, this means that a girl of 12 could now find her­self mar­ried to a man of 27 or 22.

Eras­ing the crime of abuse through the pos­si­bil­i­ty of mar­riage means leav­ing chil­dren fac­ing the risk of fur­ther abus­es, and/or of repeat­ed abus­es, thus con­demn­ing them to lives filled with violence.

In the con­ti­nu­ity of this reform of 2016 mak­ing 12 the legal age, we now have the regime announc­ing a future amnesty…

A coherent policy

The regime’s recent dec­la­ra­tion that “We shall effect the amnesty only once”, is in per­fect agree­ment with Sema Rama­zonoglu’s dec­la­ra­tion quot­ed above, and shows the coher­ence with which the AKP is deter­mined­ly pur­su­ing its nox­ious policies.

The regime jus­ti­fies its call for an amnesty by say­ing that “girls abused at a young age (of less than 12 years), then mar­ried (the law in 2016 allow­ing it), find them­selves alone with their chil­dren and penal­ized fol­low­ing the sen­tenc­ing of the men who com­mit­ted the abuse”.  Women and child prog­ec­tion orga­ni­za­tions denounce this by say­ing “it is as inhu­man as it is irra­tional for the State to attempt legit­imiz­ing the sex­u­al abuse of chil­dren with such excus­es, more­over, with­out com­mu­ni­cat­ing on what data and research this is based. It is impos­si­ble to study the cas­es. Do the “torn fam­i­lies”, the “iso­lat­ed vic­tims” tru­ly exist? How many are there? What are their cir­cum­stances, their problems? 

Despite the fact this is our main activ­i­ty, we learn of the top­ic of amnesty through the media and in hall­way dis­cus­sions. If the aim is tru­ly to pro­tect the chil­dren and to avoid their vic­tim­iza­tion, women and child pro­tec­tion orga­ni­za­tions have been howl­ing out the solu­tions for years.” 

Do not protect the abuser, but the child!”

Reli­gious offi­cials who per­form reli­gious mar­riages on girls below the mar­i­tal age, the fam­i­lies request­ing these mar­riages and autho­riz­ing them, as well as the wit­ness­es who close their eyes and do not car­ry out their report­ing oblig­a­tion must be con­demned along with the offi­cial figures.

For exam­ple, med­ical staff have the oblig­a­tion of declar­ing cas­es of abuse on minors received and treat­ed in their estab­lish­ment. The fact is that those among the staff who car­ry through with their dec­la­ra­tions are demot­ed and rel­e­gat­ed to the clos­et. We also know that the min­istries of Jus­tice and of Health are con­duct­ing pro­grams in order to abol­ish this oblig­a­tion. All of this, of course, in con­junc­tion with the pro­ject­ed amnesty.

Yes, there is need of a reform: clear­ly indi­cat­ing in the Turk­ish penal code that chil­dren of less than 15 years can­not be declared as con­sent­ing to sex­u­al acts. Mar­rige­able age must be set at 18. And these mat­ters must be inscribed in the laws, leav­ing no room for loop­holes or legal interpretations.”

The deputies who do not sup­port the gov­ern­ment at the Nation­al Assem­bly have declared they would do every­thing in their pow­er to stop the adop­tion of the amnesty law.

Reli­gious and patri­ar­chal pres­sure is strong in favor of these laws, in the name of a “Mus­lim Broth­ers” tra­di­tion at the base of the big­ot­ted sup­port the AKP does not want to aban­don. That tra­di­tion sup­ports abuse, denies child­hood or turns it into an object, prefer­ably in the case of girls…

In France, among oth­er places, “affairs” of “lit­er­ary pedophil­ia” raise ques­tions con­cern­ing a cer­tain sex­u­al lib­er­al­ism, that was social­ly tol­er­at­ed less than 20 years ago, now re-qual­i­fied as pedo-crim­i­nal­i­ty. Is the Turk­ish regime para­dox­i­cal­ly claim­ing that type of preda­to­ry lib­er­al­ism? All the bet­ter to rape you my child…

Some figures

Offi­cial fig­ures for the year 2019 have not been announced yet by the TUIK, Turkey’s Insti­tute for Sta­tis­tics… Let’s have a look at the “offi­cial” fig­ures for 2018.

167 youths, aged less than 15, gave birth. In the 15–17 year old age group, the fig­ure is 11 636. Of the 1 mil­lion 248 847 births, 11 803 babies were born of minors. Over 48 000 women of 18–19 years gave birth in 2019 accord­ing to avail­able fig­ures. As for minors giv­ing birth, the offi­cial fig­ures declared by the TUIK seem to reg­is­ter a low­er­ing over the pre­ced­ing years. But the fig­ure remains worrisome.

The same holds true for child mar­riages. We note a slight regres­sion in the 16–17 age group. But there are many such mar­riages, apart from the fact only declared mar­riages are account­ed for. Of the 553 202 mar­riages reg­is­tered in 2018, 3,8% involved a girl of 16–17; this rep­re­sents 20 779 such mar­riages. (For boys the fig­ure is 1 029, or 0,2%).

Need we remind the read­er that this pic­ture of Turkey suits a regime that has raised to the utmost its patri­ar­chal natal­ist policy.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Naz Oke
REDACTION | Journaliste 
Chat de gout­tière sans fron­tières. Jour­nal­isme à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mar­mara. Archi­tec­ture à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mimar Sinan, Istanbul.