Child marriage by 15
Child marriage by 18
|Are there Girls Not Brides members?||6|
|Does this country have a national strategy or plan?||Developing|
|Is there a Girls Not Brides National Partnership or coalition?||No|
|Age of marriage without consent or exceptions taken into account||Minimum legal age of marriage below 18 years|
What's the prevalence rate?
Syrian refugee girls in Turkey are at a 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.
What drives child marriage in Turkey?
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 inequality: 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”.
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.
Trafficking: Due to Turkey's geographical location, as the bridge between Asia and Europe, many children are vulnerable to trafficking. These vulnerabilities manifest in different ways. For example, among the Yazidi people, economic hardship has forced families to sell their underage daughters. 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.
Poverty: Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, out of desperation and poverty, Syrian families have been selling their daughters either formally or informally to marry Turkish men. This has become a widespread practice as an economic coping mechanism for Syrian family members who have no other means of providing for their large families. Syrian girls hold a specific vulnerability to abuse and child marriage as they lack effective legal protections. This is especially prevalent in Şanlıurfa (Urfa), a Turkish province that borders North East Syria.
Level of education: Low levels of education are expected to increase in Turkey. In 2018, 5% of boys were not enrolled in primary school and 6% of girls. These statistics fall below the global average.
COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on Turkey's socioeconomic environment. This, coupled with extreme vulnerabilities will push the poorest households to resort to negative coping mechanisms such as child marriage and child labour. Although there are no official figures on the prevalence of child marriage since the pandemic, many of the marriages are religious ceremonies that are not legally recognised. The lack of legal recognition leaves these girls vulnerable to exploitation and does not afford them rights and legal protections
Humanitarian settings can encompass a wide range of situations before, during and after natural disasters, conflicts, and epidemics. They exacerbate poverty, insecurity, and lack of access to services such as education, factors which all drive child marriage. While gender inequality is a root cause of child marriage in both stable and crisis context, often in times of crisis, families see child marriage as a way to cope in greater economic hardship and to protect girls from increased violence.
For the last seven years, Turkey has been home to the largest refugee and child refugee population in the world with 4 million refugees and asylum-seekers: 3.6 million Syrians under temporary protection and 320,000 Afghans, Iraqis and Iranians. According to data collected in April 2020, approximately 1.4 million refugees in Turkey are under the age of 15 and over 800,000 are between the ages of 15-24. Humanitarian crisis has been found to be a driver of child marriage.
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.
What international, regional and national commitments has Turkey made?
Turkey has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. 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.
The government has not submitted a Voluntary National Review in any High-Level Political Forum since 2019.
Turkey has signed the 2021 Human Rights Council resolution on Child, Early and Forced Marriage in times of crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 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.
In the 2019 concluding observation, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Turkey raise the minimum age of marriage to 18.
In the 2019 compilation on Turkey, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, was concerned at the increasing rates of prostitution and trafficking of girls with the false promises of marriage and a better life in Turkey. The Committee also recommended that Turkey eradicate polygamous and child marriages, including unregistered religious weddings. It was also noted that there has been a rise in honour killings and suicide due to early and forced marriages.
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 child marriage?
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 the 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 nine 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 publicly available.
In 2017, the General Directorate on Status of Women under the Ministry of Family and Social Policies carried out field visits and activities in Izmir, Diyarbakir, Sanliurfa, Mardin, Antalya, Kars, Agri, Itgdir in order to prepare for the Provincial Action Plans on Combating Early and Forced Marriages. Additionally, with the participation and cooperation of various public institutions, the Directorate initiated the National Action Plan and Strategy Document on Combating Early and Forced Marriage 2018-2023.
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 Centre (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 Article 124 of the Turkish Civil Code 2001 the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years for men and women. However, Articles 11 and 124 allows parties to marry at 17 with parental consent, or, in exceptional circumstances, a court may grant approval for marriage at age 16. Parental consent is overlooked, making the accepted age for marriage 17.
In 2015, the Turkish Constitutional Court announced that parties to a religious marriage and imams (officiants) would no longer be penalised if the couple is not already married under civil law. This Constitutional ruling exacerbated the already high prevalence of child marriage in Turkey, particularly in the Kurdish south-east.
Action by Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies to prevent and respond to child marriage: case study report
This report offers useful lessons from the work of the IFRC on child marriage in development and humanitarian contexts.
Addressing child marriage through education: What the evidence shows
The brief examines what works to address child marriage through education. It highlights barriers to girls' education and recommends strategies to address them.
Trafficking in persons in conflict and post-conflict situations
This report explores the links between trafficking in persons and conflict. Child marriage is described as a form of exploitation related to trafficking.
Early and forced Marriage in Turkey
Addresses early and forced marriage in Turkey from a number of perspectives: law, healthcare, education, human rights. Provides a brief history of Flying Broom's work on child marriage and pertinent…
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