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Girls & Women

Turkey Withdraws Controversial Child Rape Bill After Protests

AP

The Prime Minister of Turkey has dropped a parliamentary bill that could have pardoned some men convicted of child sexual assault. The controversial bill would have granted the criminals an amnesty if they married their victims. 

The hugely divisive bill sparked a torrent of outrage in the country, with thousands marching in protest. The news will be welcomed both domestically and internationally, but there are still many more issues that need to be addressed. As Global Citizen has previously reported, sexual violence is an epidemic in Turkey.

Read More: This Bill Would Pardon Men Accused of Sexual Assault by Allowing Them to Marry Victim

Child marriage is a real problem in Turkey: despite 18 being the legal age of consent, 15% of girls are married before they turn 18, while more than 3,000 men have avoided a rape conviction by marrying their victims. The issue is rooted in a rigid patriarchy that discourages gender equality, that often boils over into physical violence. Between 2003 and 2010, femicide murder rates increased by 1,400%.

Celebrations at the rejection of the bill should, however, be restrained. This is not the last we will see of it. Turkish PM Binali Yildirim withdrew the bill, but stated that it needed "broad consensus" to proceed, and that more time was needed for the “opposition parties to develop their proposals." Prepare to see it return.

According to the BBC, cases of child abuse in Turkey have tripled in the last decade. Since 2002, 440,000 underage girls have given birth. 15,937 of these mothers were below the age of 15. Child marriage, despite illegality, is viewed as a societal norm, and the rejected bill is another attempt to enshrine such backwards beliefs into law. Normalisation of sexual abuse fuels rape culture and undermines consent. Here, vulnerable children would suffer most.

You can help. Take action online now to tell world leaders that we must end child marriage for good.