Turkey’s conservative Justice and Development Party led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has launched a second campaign at introducing a law that grants rapists amnesty as long as they marry their victim.
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The legislation, which was first mooted by parliament on 16 January, would give men suspended sentences for child sex offences if the two parties get married and the age difference between them is less than 10 years.
Opposition parties and women’s rights organisations have denounced the bill and said that it is a way of legitimising child marriage and rape in a country. President Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party has said the project is planned to deal with Turkey’s widespread child marriage problem.
The United Nations has warned the law legitimises child rape and would lead to abusers acting with impunity, leaving victims even more vulnerable.
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Opposition MPs also condemned the bill, warning such a law would lead to girls being forced into marriages against their will as well as promoting abuse. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is urging the government to withdraw the proposal.
A similar bill was presented before the Turkish parliament in 2016 but it was withdrawn after it sparked worldwide outrage. The controversial proposal would have applied to statutory rape cases without the use of ‘force, threat, or any other restriction on consent’ involving girls aged 15 or younger.
The Turkish president is considered an opponent of the principle that women and men should have equal positions in society. He calls the idea of gender equality “contrary to nature.” The Turkish leader is known, in particular, for calling on the country’s women not to work, but instead to have at least three children. “A woman who refuses to become a mother because she works denies her female nature,” Erdogan had once stated.