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Turkey Offers Legal Cover To Sexual Predators, Uses Religion To Underwrite Violence Against Women

Turkey’s ruling party is attempting to introduce a law that would grant amnesty to rapists as long as they marry their victim, four years after a similar bill ignited domestic and international backlash.

At the express request of President Recep Erdogan, Turkey’s strongman and long-standing advocate for Islamic conservatism, the legislature will soon introduce to parliament a new law, which, if approved, will allow rapists to escape justice by offering them the opportunity to marry their victims.

The move which has incensed rights activists across not only Turkey but the international community, will quite categorically sit Turkey on par with those Islamic ideologues who view women as nothing more than commodities to be disposed of and abused at will. The rationale behind the new law assumes that marriage will wash clean the victim’s family’s honour and thus restore all members within their dignity. While such cultural idiosyncrasy has often been overlooked on account it claims its basis in the religious, it is preposterous for any government, let alone a NATO ally to simply offer sexual predators a free legal pass for the sake of antiquated social norms.

To rationalize rape in order to promote strong family values for a strong Turkey sounds too much like a bad replay of the 1930s for anyone not to take offense. 

It serves the purpose of this article to note that President Erdogan, whose political views are aligned with that of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group labelled a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia in 2014 for its propensity to rely on armed militantism, is once more pushing Turkey towards a dangerous form of moral conservatism, whereas women’s role within society is reduced to that of mother, and her rights usurped by the patriarchy.

Critics have argued the legislation, which the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is urging the government to axe, not only legitimizes child marriage and statutory rape but also paves the way for child abuse and sexual exploitation. 

A similar bill was defeated in Turkey in 2016 after national and global outrage. 

The United Nations warned back then already that the bill would generate a landscape of impunity for child abuse and leave victims vulnerable to experiencing additional mistreatment and distress from their assailants. 

At such a time when the United Nations is looking to crack down on violence against children in Europe, to see Turkey de facto legalize statutory rape is somewhat puzzling, not to say extremely worrying.

Speaking on the issue of violence against children, and more particularly sexual violence Bente Mikkelson, WHO Europe’s Director of the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health noted quite clearly that “Child trauma has a terrible cost, not only to the children and the adults they become, whose lives it wrecks, but to every country’s well-being and economy.”

But Turkey is not alone in following the rationale of family’s honour and the idea that for a country to exude strength family ties ought to be strengthened and child-bearing  promoted at all cost. In recent years, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia entertained the notion that marriage could wash away the trauma of rape.

As Sara Tor writes for the Independent, “Looking at Erdogan’s political views as a whole, I believe there can only be one reason: the notion that marriage and children will put Turkey on course to become a major player in the world. He states that “strong nations come from strong families”. It’s also why, time after time, he has advocated for Turkish families to have three children, and why, two weeks ago, he declared that having children or living together outside marriage is not in the Islamic – and therefore Turkish – culture.”

The very face of modern-day chauvinism President Erdogan never really hid his agenda … at a summit in 2014, he was rather emphatic when he proclaimed: “You cannot put women and men on an equal footing. It is against nature.”

His comment was followed In 2016 by a long tirade on women’s true role within society. 

“A woman who says ‘because I am working I will not be a mother’ is actually denying her femininity. A woman who rejects motherhood, who refrains from being around the house, however successful her working life is, is deficient, is incomplete.”

Under Erdogan violence against women and girls has become a veritable epidemic.

According to the United Nations, 38 percent of Turkish women have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner. Needless to say that Erdogan’s new ‘marry-your-rapist law’ will further empower men in their pursuit of dominance over women, and in more ways than one bounds Turkey to the abuses of Islamic radicalism.

The campaign group We Will Stop Femicide estimated in its latest research study that 409 women have been murdered by a partner or family member in Turkey in 2017 alone.

To say that Turkey is swimming against the international current is an understatement. It would actually be more accurate to say that Turkey is threatening to collapse efforts to curb violence against women across the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) by holding to the rationale that Islam legitimises such patriarchal and chauvinistic way of thinking.


Catherine Perez-Shakdam

Catherine is a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and a former consultant to the UN Security Council on Yemen. Her work has been published in the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, the Daily Express, Epoch Times and countless other media.

1 Comment

  1. Suzanne January 25, 2020

    Wow. This is just jaw-dropping. The evil produced by religious zealotry is overwhelming our species and ruining the planet. Our need to have easy answers to existential questions has meant that jack holes like Erdogan can sanctify their rape agenda under the guise of godliness. This man is evil, and any belief system which accommodates this thinking must be stamped out.


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