Turkey's ruling party has said it will withdraw a marriage bill that the United Nations warned could legitimize child rape. The age of consent in Turkey is 18, though many younger girls are married in Islamic ceremonies.
Turkey's ruling AK Party is shelving a proposed bill on underage marriage for further consultations, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters Tuesday, after opposition and rights groups said it could allow men accused of sexually abusing girls to avoid punishment.
The proposed law - scheduled to undergo a final vote on Tuesday despite a public outcry - would have deferred sentencing or punishment for pending sexual assault in cases where there was no physical force and where the victim and perpetrator were married. The law would have been in force retroactively from November 16.
Rights groups and United Nations agencies criticized the legislation, which they said was akin to an amnesty for child abusers and could expose victims to further suffering at the hands of their abusers. "Any forms of sexual violence against children are crimes which should be punished as such," the UN children's agency UNICEF and four other UN agencies in Turkey said in a joint statement on Monday.
The legislation is not dead, however. Yildirim told reporters the government would ask an all-party commission to review the proposal, though many members of Turkey's opposition parties have spoken out against it. The proposal also drew fire from a large swathe of the Turkish public. More than 800,000 signatures were gathered on an online petition this week urging Turkey's parliament to drop the legislation.
Widespread purges continue
In other news, Turkey dismissed an additional 15,000 more civil servants, military officials, police and others and shut down more than 500 institutions and news outlets in investigations over a failed coup in July, authorities said in two official decrees. More than 110,000 people have been fired or suspended in the military, civil service, judiciary and elsewhere, while 36,000 people have been jailed pending trial as part of the investigation into the foiled coup attempt.
Ankara blames the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his supporters, which it calls the "Gulenist Terror Organization," for orchestrating the coup bid, in which more than 240 people were killed and demands Washington extradite the reclusive Islamic cleric who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Turkish authorities have also cracked down on politicians and institutions they accuse of ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a 32-year insurgency against Turkey in the largely Kurdish southeast. Critics say the purges and mass arrests in Turkey are spreading to other opposition groups, including media outlets and Kurdish factions, in effect criminalizing political dissent.
jar/tj (AP, dpa, Reuters)