Turkish plan to release offenders if they marry victim under review
The Turkish government yesterday withdrew a controversial bill from parliament that could over turnmen’s convictions for child-sex assault, after an angry public backlash that saw thousands take to the streets.
Critics had said the bill –which would allow the release of sex assault convicts if they married their victims – would legitimise the rape of minors.
Its withdrawal back to the commission for amendments marks a rare concession to popular opposition by the ruling Justice and Development Party.
“We are taking this bill back to the commission in order to allow for the broad consensus the president requested, and to give time for the opposition parties to develop their proposals,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.
With the issue becoming a rallying cause for Turkey’s embattled opposition, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier called for a compromise.
If the bill had been passed, it would have permitted the release from prison of men guilty of assaulting a minor if the act was committed without “force ,threat, or any other restriction on consent” and if the aggressor married the victim.
Opposition parties from across the political spectrum had heavily criticised the bill, which was approved in an initial parliamentary reading on Thursday.
It was expected to be put forward again in parliament yesterday but since last week, there have been protests in which thousands of people urged the government to withdraw the bill.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party had vowed to go as far as the constitutional court to block the legislation.
But the Turkish government emphasised the bill was not being entirely dropped.
Officials have insisted the draft legislation sought to ease a considerable social problem in a country where child marriage is widespread.
Defenders of the bill said it aimed to help families where a girl fell pregnant while she was younger than the age of consent, 18, resulting in the jailing of the father for assaulting a minor.
Yildirim said the proposals sought to help children in3 800 families who “are forced to grow up without the love of their father” – possibly imprisoned- and “paying for the mistakes of their mothers and fathers”.
The bill will now be reviewed by parliament’s justice commission, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, a staunch defender of the proposal, said.
Campaigners have long accused the government of failing to do enough to stamp out child marriage and of paying more attention to pushing up the birth rate.