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Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18

* References

* 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)

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18

* References

* 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)

What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

Turkey has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Europe, with an estimated 15% of girls married before the age of 18 and 1% married before the age of 15.

Available data may not be representative of the scale of the issue since many child marriages are unregistered and take place as unofficial religious ceremonies.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys. In Turkey, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Gender norms: Turkish girls are often valued for their ability to be good wives and mothers rather than succeeding in education. Expressions used to legitimise child marriage are embedded in patriarchal language, including “when girls are in their cradle, their dowry should be ready”.
  • Poor birth registration systems: This enables families to marry off their daughters under the radar and without fear of repercussion.
  • Displacement: The crisis in Syria and subsequent influx of refugees into Turkey has caused a dramatic rise in child marriages as a survival strategy in camps with limited resources, fragile environments and widespread sexual harassment. A 2014 UNHCR survey revealed that the age of marriage for Syrian refugee girls in Turkey can be as young as 13.
  • Violence against girls: A 2017 study shows that many Turkish girls are married off to cover up abuse. Some girls choose to marry in order to escape domestic violence.
  • Religion: In 2018, Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs controversially suggested that girls could marry under Islamic law as soon as they reach puberty.
  • Trafficking: Some young girls living on Turkey’s border with Syria are reportedly coerced into marrying as second or third wives by commissioners. Girls from Syria have also been lured into exploitative situations by trafficking gangs with the promise of dowries and marriage.

What has this country committed to?

Turkey has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The government did not provide an update on progress towards this target during its Voluntary National Review at the 2016 High Level Political Forum.

Turkey co-sponsored the 2013 and 2014 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, and the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage. In 2014, Turkey signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Turkey ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1985, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

During its 2015 Universal Periodic Review, Turkey supported recommendations to criminalise child marriage and take legislative and political measures to end the practice as soon as possible.

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

A National Plan of Action on Violence Against Children is currently in development.

In September 2017 the government announced plans to reduce the ratio of child and forced marriage from 5% to 1% through a plan led by the Family and Social Policy Ministry.

During its 2015 Universal Periodic Review, the government highlighted that its National Strategy Document and Action Plan on the Rights of the Child (2013-2017) was focused on keeping girls in education with the aim of preventing child marriage.

In 2009, the Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey established a Subcommittee on Early Marriages in order to shed light on the problem.

Turkey’s Family Ministry has launched a counter-strategy to raise awareness on the physical and psychological consequences of child marriage among 130,000 people per month in highly affected regions.

UNICEF and the ICC are implementing a child marriage initiative in Gaziatep, bordering Syria. ICC has developed indicators to measure progress made by local administrations in ending child marriage.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Turkish Civil Code 2001 the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years. However Articles 11 & 124 allows parties to marry at 17 with parental consent, or, in exceptional circumstances, a court may grant approval for marriage at age 16.

In 2016, the government brought forward a controversial bill which would have allowed men who sexually abused children the chance to have their convictions quashed if they married their victims. Parliament approved the bill in the initial reading but it was pulled before it could reach a final vote, after a mass public protest.

In early January 2018, Turkey’s highest religious body (“Diyanet”) suggested girls aged 9 could marry under Islamic law, which led to another public outcry.


Bright the Mag, Europe Wasn’t Ready for Child Brides, [website], 2016, (accessed April 2018)

CARE, “TO PROTECT HER HONOUR”, Child marriage in emergencies – the fatal confusion between protecting girls and sexual violence, 2015, (accessed April 2018)

Heinrich Böll Foundation, Lost childhoods – Turkey still has one of the highest rates of early marriages, 2017, (accessed April 2018)

Hurriyet Daily News, Survey sheds light on severity of Turkey’s child marriage problem, 2018, (accessed April 2018)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, [website], 2014, (accessed April 2018)

Ministry of Health, Turkey Demographic and Health Survey 2013-2014, 2015, (accessed April 2018)

The Executive Committee for NGO Forum on CEDAW – Turkey, Shadow NGO Report on Turkey’s Seventh Periodic Report to The Committee on The Elimination of Discrimination Against Women For Submission to The 64th Session of CEDAW, 2016, (accessed April 2018)

The Independent, Turkey’s highest religious body suggests children as young as nine could marry under Islamic law, [website], 2018, (accessed April 2018)

UNFPA, Child marriage in Turkey (Overview), 2012, (accessed April 2018)

UNICEF, Indicators for Monitoring of Violence against Children Guidebook, 2013, (accessed April 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Turkey, 2015, p.18, 22, (accessed March 2018)

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, (accessed February 2018)

* 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)