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Appeal for international support to stop Turkey's child rape law

WOMEN’S organisations and activists in Turkey have appealed for international solidarity as the Islamist ruling party seeks to introduce a child rape law that would grant amnesty to perpetrators who marry their victims.

The parliament will vote on the legislation on Tuesday, but women’s rights groups have vowed to send “hundreds of thousands” of protesters to block the passage of the Bill, which could also lead to the release of around 4,000 jailed paedophiles.

There have been nationwide demonstrations against the legislation, which forms part of the second judicial package to be presented by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party.

Those resisting the Bill, which opponents argue will legalise the rape of children as young as 12, have faced violent attacks by Turkish security forces.

Protests have been banned in towns and cities across the country, while journalists critical of the legislation have faced harassment, detention and rape threats from the police.

The opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, the main grouping in parliament calling for the Bill to be scrapped, has been targeted by police raids and scores of its activists and elected officials have been locked up.

The figures make for grim reading. According to official statistics, a total of 482,908 children were married in the past decade.

The number of conceptions recorded among females aged under 18 was 21,957 in the last 18 months, according to the Health Ministry, but the real figures are likely to be much higher.

Around 26 per cent of women in Turkey were married before they turned 18  and 10 per cent also give birth while they were still minors.

A total of 440,000 underage females have given birth since 2002. The number of girls under 15 who gave birth after being exposed to sexual abuse was recorded as 15,937.

The youngest girl to have given birth in Turkey was just nine. She delivered a baby boy by caesarean section in the western city of Ayfon in 1990.

Human Rights Association lawyer Ozlem Yilmaz warned that the legislation would lead to just 73 of the 4,000 men convicted of sexually abusing children remaining behind bars.

Under the law, “the abuse of a 27-year-old man against a 12-year-old girl will be considered peer marriage and will not be considered a crime. As a lawyer and a woman, [I say] this is not acceptable.”

Izmir Women’s Platform spokeswoman Gunseli Kaya said the legislation was “one of the tools to legitimise the model of society the government wants to create.

“This Bill gives the man the right to rape any time. The child or women married in this way will not be able to use their free will ever again … If a man rapes a nine-year-old girl and gets married to her, she will be his slave for the rest of her life.

“There will be no possibility of punishing this crime legally and moreover it will encourage others to do the same. As women, we will never let this happen.”

Activists said that support and solidarity from the international community would be vital in pressuring the government to scrap the proposed law.

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