Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)
Turkey has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Europe with an estimated 15% of girls married before the age of 18.
However, statistical data available may not be representative of the scale of the issue since most child marriages are unregistered and take place as unofficial religious marriages.
Patriarchal values remain strong in Turkish society and girls and women are expected to conform to traditional gender norms and expectations. Violence against women and girls is high and tolerated and school attendance remains low for girls. Girls are often valued for their ability to be good wives and mothers and little importance is placed on their education.
Economic considerations along with concerns about girls’ safety and family honour are also drivers of child marriage.
Turkey has a poor birth registration system which means that families can marry their daughters without fear of repercussion.
The crisis in Syria and subsequent influx of refugees into Turkey and other neighbouring countries has caused a dramatic rise in the number of child marriages.
Child marriage increases dramatically in emergencies due to increased poverty levels and a need to reduce household expenditure as well as parents wanting to protect their daughter’s honour and avoid sexual harassment and violence in an increasingly fragile environment.
A UNHCR survey conducted in 2014 revealed that the average age of marriage for Syrian refugee girls in Turkey was between 13 and 20 years with many respondents saying if they had the money, they would not have resorted to marrying off their daughters at such a young age.
Legal age of marriage
In 2002, the minimum age of marriage was raised to 17 years for both men and women.
However, the civil code allows for marriage at the age of 16 with the consent of the court in “exceptional circumstances”.
National platform to end child marriage
The platform “No to Child Brides” brings together 50 organisations working to end child marriage in Turkey. It is co-chaired by Girls Not Brides members Flying Broom and the International Children’s Centre Turkey.
In November 2017, President Erdogan signed the so-called “mufti law” which allows state-approved clerics to conduct marriage ceremonies, despite concerns from civil society that this could have an impact on child marriage.
In November 2016, the Turkish government recalled an amendment to a bill that would allow perpetrators of sexual assault to be exonerated if they married their victims. Civil society, the public and the international community had expressed concerns that the legislation would legitimise child marriage.
Members In Turkey
- UNFPA, Child marriage country profile: Turkey, 2012
- Care, To Protect Her Honour: Child Marriage in Emergencies – the fatal confusion between protecting girls and sexual violence, 2015
- UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2016