More than 60 Turkish bar associations have jointly condemned an amnesty bill that seeks to pardon convicts of child sexual abuse, the Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Monday.
A total of 63 bar associations, including Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir, declared in a written statement on Monday that they “will not allow sexual abuse of children in Turkey to be legitimized by way of the law.”
The associations said they follow deliberations on a bill seeking amnesty for men sentenced for child sexual abuse, on condition that they are married to their victims, “with worry and sorrow” since 2016.
The statement was released in reaction to Turkey’s ruling AK Party (AKP)’s reported discussions on a bill that would pardon child sexual abusers if the age difference between the offender and the victim falls within a specific range.
The bill would indefinitely defer sentencing or punishment for sexual assault of minors, those below the age of 18 in cases where the act was consensual and where the victim and perpetrator were married.
The amendment proposal, which was brought to parliament for a vote in late 2016 and fell short of passage by legislators, has recently found its way into parliament again.
Women’s rights groups and organizations, as well as legal circles, expressed concerns after reports of AKP MPs discussions during a Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting earlier this month about what they saw as an appropriate age gap for the pardon.
The proposal would open the door for sexual predators and encourage marriage to minors, they argued.
Monday’s statement by bar associations also underlined that it is “completely primitive, unlawful and unacceptable” to discuss whether the appropriate age gap for pardoning sexual abusers is 10 or 15.
“Children are not sexual objects,” the joint statement also noted, holding forth that amnesty for child sexual offenders would override the interest of the child.
The rulings given by Turkey’s Court of Cassation, in cases where the sexual abuser is claimed not to know the victim’s age, are also criticized by the bar associations for laying the ground for legitimizing child marriages.
According to the international organization Girls Not Brides, a group working to end the country’s child marriage problem, Turkey has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Europe.
The data from the organization reveals that the country has an estimated 15 percent of girls married before the age of 18 and 1 percent married before the age of 15.