How many Erdogan supporters want Sharia law

Impunity for rapists in Turkey? That's behind it

Istanbul. Impunity for rapists who marry their underage victims - this is how a current draft law of the Islamic ruling party AKP of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can be summarized. According to Turkish media reports, the law is to be discussed and passed in parliament this week. The project provoked a storm of protest in social media and among women’s organizations in Turkey, and it has also received sharp criticism internationally. The critics accuse the Turkish government of wanting to legalize child abuse and child marriage and to amnesty convicted perpetrators. Proponents cite “cultural traditions” and Islamic Sharia law, which supposedly legitimizes child marriage.

MPs from the opposition Turkish center-left party CHP and the pro-Kurdish HDP called on the governing coalition of the AKP and the far-right MHP to withdraw the scandalous proposal, as they would undermine the country's secular constitution and enable rapists to act without fear of punishment. Girls and minors could be forced into unwanted marriages, as the "consensual marriage" provided for in the law is in reality produced with pressure.

"It would hit the most vulnerable group of the Turkish population, namely underage girls, the hardest," says Aykan Erdemir of the Washington think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “The government coalition in Turkey wants to amnesty men who are legally classified as rapists of minors who have married their victims. But by legitimizing the marriage of minors aged twelve and over, it ultimately legalizes the wider crime of rape. "

This bill will result in the release of many men convicted of rape.

Sara Tor, British-Turkish journalist

As reported by Turkish opposition newspapers and news portals, there were protest demonstrations in at least 45 Turkish provinces in January. “This bill will lead to the release of many men convicted of rape,” wrote British-Turkish journalist Sara Tor in the London Independent, quoting the Turkish “Hürriyet”, according to which around 4,000 convicted rapists could be given amnesty.

Behind the proposed law hides the deep division in the country between secular people, who do not attach any power to religion in public space, and religious people who want to orient society according to Sharia norms. "In the last century, every change in the law that provided additional protection for women and minors in Turkey was opposed by the Turkish Islamists in order to maintain the practice of marrying minors," says Aykan Erdemir.

The AKP had already presented a similarly provocative law to the Turkish parliament in 2016. It had proposed impunity for rape cases where there was "no violence, threats or other restrictions on consent". The project was dropped by the government after massive protests in Turkey and global criticism.

The new law meets the demands of conservative AKP ideologues and Islamic sects that have been able to steadily expand their power in Turkey over the past few years. In 2017, the religious already achieved partial success when the Islamic nationalist parliamentary majority passed a law that allowed Islamic muftis and scholars to carry out civil weddings and, according to critics, paved the way for more child marriages. The state religious office Diyanet stated on its website in 2018 that girls with puberty from nine and boys from twelve years of age can marry in order to “avoid illegitimate sexual relationships”.