A new law in Turkey allows Muslim clerics to conduct civil marriages. But women’s rights activists believe the law will increase child marriages in the country.

Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a big supporter of the law. In recent years, he has been turning his back on the secular principles on which Turkey was founded. He has banned public schools from teaching evolution. Students are being taught a state sponsored explanation of jihad.

“Women’s rights are going to decline,” said Nazan Moroğlu, an expert on gender law and a lecturer at Yeditepe University. “Everything that has been pushed on to women in this land has been done in the name of religion.”

There is also a new requirement that those who carry out “immoral acts” before marriage can’t become Turkish citizens.

“From the way this draft law was prepared without the participation of sides who will be affected, such as muftis or women’s groups, it is a sign of an enforcement of an idea,” said Selina Doğan, an opposition MP in Istanbul

The minimum marriage age in Turkey is 17. But women’s rights campaigners estimate that a third of all marriages in Turkey include girls under the age of 18.

Last year, Turkey had proposed a bill which would have pardoned men who engaged in sex with underage girls, if they had married the victims. The bill sparked widespread protests across the country and was criticised globally.

The government had defended the bill, saying its aim was to exonerate men imprisoned for marrying an underage girl with both family’s consent. 

As many as 440,000 girls under 18 have become mothers in the country since 2002. Child abuse cases have tripled in the past 10 years, according to Turkish Justice Ministry data.

Also Read: US-Born Journalist And Her Mother Killed In Turkey

Picture Credit: CBC

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