Child marriage

Religious arm of Turkey’s government sparks outrage by declaring girls as young as 9 are fit to marry

(ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkey’s directorate of religious affairs has declared that Islamic law allows girls to marry at age 9, prompting outrage on social media and calls for a parliamentary inquiry from the country’s main opposition party. The Diyanet, a government body that employs all of the country’s imams, provides Quranic training for children, and drafts weekly sermons that are delivered at the country’s 85,000 mosques, had issued a statement on its website claiming that Islamic law dictates that adolescence begins for girls at age 9 — and that girls who had reached the age of adolescence had the right to marry.

The Diyanet has claimed that its intention was merely to define a contentious point of Islamic law and that the declaration would not change the country’s minimum age of marriage — typically 17 years of age, although exceptions can be granted for those who are age 16. Secular critics, however, have suggested that the move is clearly intended to encourage child marriage by pointing to the widespread use of unofficial religious weddings that often involve underage participants, the recent passage of a law that allows Muslim clerics to conduct civil marriages, and the grim reality that an estimated third of all legal marriages in the country already involve girls under the age of 18.

A young actress plays the role of Giorgia, 10, forced to marry Paolo, 47, during a happening organized by Amnesty International to denounce child marriage. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

In response to the Diyanet’s statement on child marriage, 30 MP’s of the opposition Republican People’s Party have demanded a government investigation into the practice. A little more than a year ago, the Turkish government caved to protests and backed off of a potential child marriage bill that would have allowed men who engaged in sexual intercourse with underage girls to avoid prison time provided they married the girl afterward.

Read the full story at BBC News.

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