Experts: 130,000 girls under 18 married in Turkey in last 3 years

The drama of “K.E.,” a young girl who was married off at the age of 12, became a mother at 13, had a miscarriage with her second child at 14, and was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head in her house in Siirt’s Pervari district on Jan. 12, has brought the shame surrounding “child brides” in Turkey to the spotlight once again.
There have been 130,000 girls who married under the age of 18 over the last three years in the country, said Dr. Burcu Donmez of Yaşar University’s law faculty, noting that forced marriage must absolutely be covered as a part of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
“It is definitely inhuman to force anyone under the age of 15 to marry. In fact, the United Nations defines forced marriage as a kind of modern slavery’ she added.

Data provided in June 2013 from the Interior Ministry illuminates the situation of child brides in Turkey. While there have been a total of 134,629 marriages involving persons under the age of 18 over the past three years, the number of males under the age of 18 married was just 5,763, while the number of girls under the age of 18 married off was 128,866. In other words, the number of underage girls married off in the past three years is 21 times the number of underage males marrying.

Dr. Dönmez, who stresses that marrying off children under the age of 15 needs to be seen and defined as a violation of children’s rights, says: “For anyone to be forced into marriage — whether they are under the age of 15 or not — is an inhuman and a terrible thing. In fact, the European Union produced 11 directives between the years of 2002 and 2006 aimed at preventing forced marriages. Turkey must also move to make forced marriage an injustice that calls for punishment and define it as its own category of crime. Forced marriage must be defined as a solid crime. This is why not only forcing someone into marriage, but forcing someone to continue a marriage, must be made a crime.”


Dönmez notes that if a law on this subject does get passed, the important thing is that in addition to seeing that courts hand down punishments to those guilty of trying to force young people into marriage, sanctions such as the state-backed removal of youngsters from their families are implemented. She continues: “Sometimes we see girls married off from agreements made at the cradle, other times they are sold like goods. We hear about these dramas every day. What is important is increasing families’ awareness and their education levels. This should become state policy.”

Dr. Ilgın Başaran from Yaşar University notes some of the more disturbing psychological effects of forced marriage at a young age, saying: “To marry off children who are still in primary school is to exploit them on both an emotional and physical level. These are children who are at risk of losing of their identities. For example, a young girl who becomes a mother at an early age might play with her babies as though she was playing with her dolls in his childhood. If her baby dies or she experiences a miscarriage, this child bride might feel sad as if she lost her doll and might lose self-confidence very easily.”



About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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