Turkey is a dangerous place for women, and it’s getting worse. At least 40% of women report some sort of sexual or physical abuse, and the murder rate of women has jumped by over 1,000% since 2003.
Last week, the AKP (President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party) approved a controversial bill that clears men of statutory rape if:
• There was no “force or threat”
• The man marries the victim
Critics slam the bill for legitimizing rape and child marriage as well as letting rapists off the hook.
The Turkish government insists that the bill does not “excuse rape,” but is aimed to “rehabilitate those who may not have realized their sexual relations were unlawful,” reports BBC News. It will also “prevent girls who have sex under the age of 18 from feeling ostracized by their community.”
The bill faces harsh criticism at home and abroad, and many Turkish women are worried that it will encourage men to commit rape.
But the AKP is sure to find support among religious voters in poor areas – where young girls are married off and the sexual abuse and rape rates are higher – and supporters will likely say that President Erdogan has liberated pious women by repealing the ban on headscarves in public.
Members of parliament will review the bill a second time before casting a final vote on Tuesday. If the bill passes, it could nullify the convictions of nearly 3,000 men accused of sexually assaulting underage women.
“Sexual abuse is a crime and there is no consent in it,” says MP Ozgur Ozel of the Republican People’s Party. “This is what the AKP fails to understand. Seeking the consent of a child is something that universal law does not provide for.”
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag argues that the bill could benefit pregnant women who are in consensual relationships but not married: “When a child is then born from this non-official union, the doctor warns the prosecutor and the man is sent to prison, putting the child and mother into financial difficulties.”
PB views this new bill as another step in Turkey’s dangerous path towards radical Islam – a process that ramped up with Erdogan’s violent response to the failed military coup that rocked Turkey in July.
Editor’s note: This country continues to go backwards under Erdogan.