Thousands of Turkish people have taken to the streets of Istanbul to vent their anger at a highly contentious draft law that would quash men’s convictions for child sex assaults if they marry the victims
Around 3,000 protesters marched on Istanbul’s Kadikoy Square Saturday, shouting slogans in condemnation of the bill recently brought to the parliament by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Holding banners that read, “Rape cannot be legitimized” and “AKP, take your hands off my body,” the demonstrators shouted, “We will not shut up. We will not obey. Withdraw the bill immediately!”
Turkish lawmakers approved the bill in its initial reading on Thursday and will vote on the proposal in a second debate on Tuesday.
If passed, the law would pardon men guilty of assaulting a minor if the act was committed without “force, threat, or any other restriction on consent” and if the perpetrator married the victim.
“We will not allow the AKP to acquit and set free rapists in this country,” said one of the protesters, adding, “Women will resist and take to the streets until this law and similar other laws are withdrawn.”
The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan argues that the measure was aimed at resolving legal complications related to child marriage, but critics believe that the initiative will legitimize child rape.
“Sexual abuse is a crime and there is no consent in it. This is what the AKP fails to understand,” said Ozgur Ozel, of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Omer Suha Aldan, another CHP lawmaker, complained that the legislation would “encourage forced marriages and legalize marriage to rapists.”
Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s deputy Europe director, also criticized the measure, saying it risks sending “the wrong message and could lead to further abuse.”
However, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag defended the law on Friday, arguing that it was a response to the “unfortunate reality” of teenage marriage in the country and would lead to the release of approximately 3,000 people accused of assaulting minors.