We have seen the erosion of civil liberties with the rise of the Islamic parties in Turkey under the autocratic rule of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Like many Muslim countries, Turkey has a long and troubling history of child brides and arranged marriages. Recently, the Turkish Constitutional Court annulled a provision that punishes all sexual acts against children under the age of 15 as “sexual abuse.” Now, a bill which would allow men accused of raping underage girls to be cleared if they marry the girl has been preliminarily backed by Turkish MPs. Notably, the bill would pardon men only if they had sex without “force or threat” and if they married the victim. However, that would legitimate child marriage.
Violence against women has risen under Erdoğan — 40% of women report sexual or physical abuse. It has increased an incredible 1,400% between 2003 and 2010. The reign of the Islamic parties has contributed to this trend in the view of many critics.
The government insists that some rapists do not realize that they are committing a crime and this bill seeks to rehabilitate them. They say it will also protect underaged girls from being ostracized by their community by having them marry their rapists. Again, the bill is being pushed by Erdoğan’s Islamic supporters.