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Protestors fight Turkish law that lets rapists marry victims

Demonstrations took place across the country in response to a bill that would pardon men who assault underage girls if they married them

Thousands of protestors gathered in Turkish cities to challenge a new bill that would clear men’s convictions for the sexual assault of underage girls if they married them.

Istanbul’s Kadikoy square saw thousands demonstrate against the law at the weekend, many holding banners with slogans such as ‘AKP, take your hands off my body’ and ‘Rape cannot be legitimised’, and shouting: “We will not shut up, we will not obey, withdraw the bill immediately”.  Protests also took place in Izmir and Trabzon.

The motion for the bill, brought forward by Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, detailed that men who assaulted a minor without “force, threat, or any other restriction on consent” and married the victim would be cleared of crime. Government officials maintain that it would help deal with the widespread customs of child marriage in Turkey, but protestors assert that it’s legitimising and normalising rape.

It’s been approved on its first parliamentary reading, with a second debate and vote on the bill scheduled within the next week. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag related in a NATO meeting: “The bill will certainly not bring amnesty to rapists. This is a step taken to solve a problem in some parts of our country.” Binali Yildirim, the Turkish Prime Minister, stated that the bill was to clear imprisoned men who have married women under 18 with their family’s consent.

The UN Children’s Fund said it was “deeply concerned” by the drafted bill, according to Al Jazeera. The Women’s and Democracy Association drew attention to the legal implications surrounding whether sex could be proved as consensual or forced.  They said: “How can the 'own will' of such a young girl be identified? We would like to draw attention to issues that might arise in case of it coming into force.”