Turkey Seeks To Legitimize Child Rape

Thousands took to streets in Istanbul to protest against a bill that would overturn men’s convictions for child sex assault – if they married their victim.

Thousands of people, including women and children, protested in Istanbul, Turkey, against a controversial bill that would let child rapists off the hook if they married their victim.

"We will not shut up. We will not obey. Withdraw the bill immediately!" demonstrators shouted amid claps and whistles as they marched to the city's Kadikoy square.

They also brandished banners such as "#AKP take your hands off my body" – a reference to the ruling party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which introduced the appalling bill.

If passed, the law would overturn the convictions for up to 3,000 men guilty of assaulting a minor if the act was committed without “force, threat, or any other restriction on consent."

“If a 50- or 60-year-old is told to marry an 11-year-old girl after raping her, and then marries her years later, she will suffer the consequences,” said Omer Suha Aldan, an MP for the main opposition party CHP. “If you give him a pass by marriage, the young girl will live in prison her whole life.”

However, the government insisted the legislation was aimed at dealing with the widespread custom of child marriages and the criticism was a crude distortion of its aim.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag moved to reassure opponents that the bill would not pardon rapists.

 "The bill will certainly not bring amnesty to rapists.... This is a step taken to solve a problem in some parts of our country," he said.

Meanwhile, the U.N. children's fund said it was "deeply concerned" over the bill

"These abject forms of violence against children are crimes which should be punished as such, and in all cases the best interest of the child should prevail," explained spokesman Christophe Boulierac.

After the controversy, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim ordered his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to hold talks with the opposition in parliament on the planned measures.

Defenders of that law argued it made a distinction between cases of sexual acts involving a young teenager as opposed to a much younger child.

The protesters, on the other hand, believe it is an attempt to legitimize statutory rape

“A rape can't be justified,” protester Fadik Temizyurek told the BBC. “What does it mean to ask a child if they're OK? Until they're 18, a child remains a child, that is why this has to be condemned. We are here so that this law can't pass.”

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