Controversial abuse bill withdrawn in Turkey

The Turkish government has withdrawn a bill that according to critics would legitimise child marriages. Under the legislation sex abuse against a minor could go unpunished if the perpetrator married the victim. After fierce protests the bill is to be revised in parliament. Commentators see this as a major victory for Muslim women in particular. Others warn against euphoria in view of the continuing Islamisation of the country.

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Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

Strong Turkish women can foil Erdoğan's plans

The withdrawal of the abuse law is a victory for Turkish women, the daily paper taz writes:

“It appears that social regresses can be blocked even under almost dictatorial conditions if the women of a society present a unified front. It is a glimmer of hope for Turkey that even Muslim women's associations weren't willing to permit every male perversion committed under the cover of Islam. This hasn't put an end to the process of Islamisation in Turkey and it hasn't loosened Erdoğan's grip on power. But for many, many Turkish women and men who might have sunk into complete depression since the relentless repression against even the tiniest criticism of the regime began, this is a glimmer of hope. Perhaps not all is lost after all - particularly as regards the enhanced presidential powers Erdoğan wants to confer upon himself in a new constitution next year.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

No reason to rejoice yet

The repealed abuse law is just one example of the increasing misogyny of Turkish politics, Tages-Anzeiger criticises:

“It comes as no surprise that the men in the AKP, which has been ruling the country alone, now wanted to push a law through parliament that would be tantamount to an amnesty for sex offenders. According to the bill such crimes could go unpunished if the perpetrator marries his victim. Enlightened men and women have been fighting the bill for days now, above all in Istanbul. The resistance of civil society, which Erdoğan has been brutally repressing for months, has had results. The bill was withdrawn and will be revised. But that's no reason to rejoice. Erdoğan is not only pursuing a presidency that's tailored to his ambitions, but also an arch-conservative Turkey. In such a state there would be no place for self-confident, non-veiled and educated women.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Turkish democracy still lives on

The successful protest against the bill that was withdrawn on Tuesday shows that democracy still exists in Turkey, writes Der Standard:

“After months of repression that smothered dissenters, the row that flared up over a retroactive amnesty for sexual crimes has a silver lining. A democracy still lives on in the country. The protest led by the parliamentary opposition, civil society and - perhaps decisively - by voices from within its own ranks have forced the government to relent. … Sexual abuse is a crime. To construe certain circumstances as turning the abuse of underage girls by older men into 'mutual agreement' is absurd. … Turkey's state religion authority recently condemned child marriages. The pious ruling AKP must respect that and stop pandering to its male voters.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Taboo issue finally being discussed

Writing in Hürriyet Daily News columnist Gila Benmayor can see a positive side to the bill:

“Child brides are one of the most tragic issues of this country that we as women journalists have been writing about for years. These victims are coming out of the dark now, and are sharing their horrific experiences with us, the victims of incest, those abused since a very young age, have been in silence for so long. ... Unfortunately, instead of questioning why these cases have tripled over the past 10 years, there are attempts to find ways to protect sexual abusers. ... I hope the parliament has understood, after so much outrage, that in the case of pardoning a sexual abuser, the number of child brides will increase, and we will not be able to protect our children against sexual abuse.”

Sözcü (TR) /

Girls must be protected

The bill is another example of the AKP's backward and misogynist family policy, the Kemalist daily Sözcü comments:

“The AKP tried to push through this law, which the people reject as the 'rape law', in the middle of the night, once again rocking Turkish society. … The men in the cases named by the AKP may be pardoned, but girls who didn't want to marry their husband, who didn't even know what marriage is and who are forced into marriage by their families must be protected. They must not be forced by this new law to live together with the man who raped them for the rest of their life.”

Star (TR) /

Bill needs to be more clearly formulated

The idea behind the bill is right but its wording is not clear enough, writes the pro-government daily Star:

“Why is there now a disgraceful campaign claiming that the AKP is pardoning rapists and that the state backs and even encourages rape? … The bill is poorly formulated and full of loopholes, albeit unintended ones. … So Prime Minister Yıldırım's call for his MPs to meet with the opposition is the right decision. … To achieve the intended effect and dispel all reservations the perpetrators must indeed be identified, the age difference between victim and perpetrator restricted, and a precise account must be given of the conditions under which the victim gave their consent.”