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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 2% married before the age of 15.

Syrian refugee girls in Turkey are at an heightened risk of child marriage. According to the 2018 Demographic and Health Survey conducted among Syrian people in Turkey, 45% of Syrian girls in Turkey were married before the age of 18, and 9% before the age of 15.

Available data may not be representative of the scale of the issue, both for Turkish nationals and Syrian refugees, 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”.
  • 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 violence in their homes.
  • Religion: In 2018, Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs controversially suggested that girls could marry under Islamic law as soon as they reach puberty.
  • Poor birth registration systems: This enables families to marry off their daughters under the radar and without fear of repercussion.
  • Displacement: Turkey currently hosts the largest refugee population in the world – more than 4 million, most of them from Syria. 70% of them are children and women. 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.

Trafficking: Some young girls living on Turkey’s border with Syria are reportedly coerced into marrying as second or third wives, in marriages arranged by traffickers. 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. During its Voluntary National Review at the 2019 High Level Political Forum, the government provided an update on progress towards this target and mentioned several actions to achieve it, including:

  • Revising the current legislation for women and girls in the context of prevention of early and forced marriages.
  • Generating detailed data on early and forced marriages at regional and local levels.

Turkey co-sponsored the following Human Rights Council resolutions: the 2013 procedural resolution on child, early and forced marriage, and the 2019 resolution on the consequences of child marriage. In 2014, Turkey also signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Turkey co-sponsored the 2013, 2014 and 2018 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced 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.

Turkey has ratified the Istanbul Convention, which considers forced marriage a serious form of violence against women and girls, and legally binds state parties to criminalise the intentional conduct of forcing an adult or child into a marriage.

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

In early 2020 President Erdogan made a second attempt to introduce a law to grant rapists amnesty as long as they marry their victim. The legislation would give men suspended sentences for child sex offences if the two parties are married and the age difference between them is less than 10 years.

According to President Erdogan, this proposal is designed to “deal with Turkey’s widespread child marriage problem”. However, as women’s rights groups have pointed out, the bill would in practice legitimise child marriage and statutory rape. It would increase impunity of perpetrators and the wrong perception that abusing a child can be somehow excused.

As of March 2020, the date for the second reading of this draft in parliament bill has not yet been set. This draft bill comes four years after a similar bill sparked outrage nationally and internationally and was pulled before it could reach a final vote.

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.

As reported by ECPAT International, in 2018 a specific action plan on the issue of child, early and forced marriage, for the period of 2019-2023 had been prepared, which would build on activities implemented in the National Action Plan on Violence Against Women 2016-2020. However, as of March 2020, this plan was not publically available.

Previously, 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.

Turkey’s Family Ministry launched a counter-strategy in 2017 to raise awareness on the physical and psychological consequences of child marriage among 130,000 people per month in highly affected regions.

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.

The International Children’s Center (ICC) and UNICEF developed indicators to measure progress made by local administrations in ending child marriage.

The Turkish Red Crescent is providing several interventions to address child marriage among Syrian refugees in Turkey.

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.


BBC News, Turkish child marriage religious document sparks anger, [website], 2018, (accessed March 2020).

Bright the Mag, Europe Wasn’t Ready for Child Brides, [website], 2016, (accessed March 2020).

CARE, “To protect her Honour”, Child marriage in emergencies – the fatal confusion between protecting girls and sexual violence, 2015, (accessed March 2020).

Council of Europe, Details of Treaty No. 210. Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, [website], 2014, (accessed February 2020).

ECPAT, Sexual exploitation of children in Turkey, 2020, (accessed March 2020).

European Commission, Turkey, [website], 2020, (accessed March 2020).

Government of Turkey, TURKEY’s 2nd VNR 2019, 2019, (accessed March 2020).

Hacettepe University Institute of Population Studies, Turkey Demographic and Health Survey Syrian Migrant Sample, 2019, (accessed March 2020).

Heinrich Böll Foundation, Lost childhoods – Turkey still has one of the highest rates of early marriages, 2017, (accessed March 2020).

Hurriyet Daily News, Survey sheds light on severity of Turkey’s child marriage problem, 2018, (accessed March 2020).

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Action by Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies to prevent and respond to child marriage. Case Study Report, 2019, (accessed March 2020).

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, [website], 2014, (accessed March 2020).

Turkey Demographic and Health Survey 2018, (accessed September 2020).

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 March 2020).

The Guardian, Turkish activists oppose amnesties for child rapists, [website], 2020, (accessed March 2020).

The Independent, Turkey’s highest religious body suggests children as young as nine could marry under Islamic law, [website], 2018, (accessed March 2020).

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Turkey, 2015, p.18, 22, (accessed March 2020).

UNFPA, Child marriage in Turkey (Overview), 2012, (accessed March 2020).

UNICEF, Indicators for Monitoring of Violence against Children Guidebook, 2013, (accessed March 2020).

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, (accessed March 2020).

* 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)