Almost a third of all marriages in Turkey involve child brides, according to women’s rights advocate Nuriye Kadan, who addressed a conference on the issue on Sunday. “There are 181,036 child brides in our country, unfortunately…nearly 20,000 parents filed applications to marry off their under-16 girls in 2012,” the executive board member of the Izmir Bar Association told the gathering, organized by Gediz University Law School and Women and Family Research Center.
Kadan added that she suspects the actual number is even higher, as many marriages to underage girls are performed only in the presence of an imam, and not officially registered. She also noted almost 100 percent of students who don’t further their education for marital reasons are female and that pregnancy-related issues were a common cause of death for girls aged 15-19.
Yasar University law professor Mustafa Ruhan Erdem observed that child marriage is not defined as a criminal act in Turkey, where girls under 16 may marry with Sharia Court permission, but was quoted by Hurriyet Daily News as saying: “Marriage should be based on free will according to international law. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence Turkey signed in 2011, mandates the enactment of laws which regard to intentional acts forcing any adult or child into marriage as a ‘crime.’ Forced marriage should not be left unpunished.”
The high numbers are partly attributable to the influx of refugees from Syria and other countries in the region, with a 2014 UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) survey revealing the average age of marriage for Syrian refugee girls in Turkey is between 13 and 20 — in many cases, forced by financial instability.
Read the full story at RT.