In the following my interview with the author of the research entitled “Legitimizing Early Forced Marriages: the Case of Turkey”. We talked about the objectives of her research paper and the importance of the struggle against child forced marriage in Turkey. Child marriage is the major obstacle of development for girls. Strategies must be implemented to oppose to the phenomenon not only in Turkey, but all over the world.
Why this research about forced child marriage?
I wanted this study to investigate the cultural and social aspects underlying the child brides that are forced to marry, and the lack of a common definition for the term “child” in Turkish laws which include a Civil Code, Penal Code, and the Child Protection Law. Despite such national laws and international agreements forbidding early marriage and recognizing underage marriages as the major obstacle to the development of young girls, the practice continues. I also question the existing law regarding the minimum age of marriage, which does not comply with that of international law. I suggest that the main causes responsible for legitimizing and perpetuating early and/or forced marriages of young girls are the social structure of Turkey, the family, and religion.
What is the definition of child marriage?
Child marriage or early marriage is defined as “any marriage carried out below the age of 18 years, thus before the girl or the boy is physically, physiologically, and psychologically ready to shoulder the responsibilities of marriage and childbearing” (UNFPA 2006). Child marriages occur when one or both of the spouses are below the age of eighteen which according to Article 16(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is human rights violation.
What are the main causes diffusing this phenomenon?
The major factors contributing to early marriage of girls in Turkey include poverty along with social, cultural and religious norms; value of virginity and fears regarding extramarital sexual activity; and the view by families in rural parts of eastern Turkey and some urban areas that marriage will ensure male guardianship for their daughters. As part of its economic survival strategy, a family will not only hope that their daughter will benefit economically from her new family, but will also welcome the price received for the bride. Furthermore, cultural traditions and religion are also responsible for the harmful practice of early marriage. Religious leaders tend to perpetuate the phenomenon by performing unofficial marriage ceremonies. Domestic violence and a lack of knowledge about family planning, reproductive health, educational opportunities are some of the societal pressures that promote child marriage.
Hossein Rezaye, Afghanistan
How is the situation in Turkey?
While there is no law criminalizing child marriage in Turkey, Turkish legislation plays a part in defining women’s and children’s rights and protection. The issue of early marriage is indirectly tackled through rape and sexual abuse laws. Turkish Civil Code (2001) abolished the supremacy of men in marriage and established the full equality of men and women in the family. The Law on Protection of the Family and Prevention of Violence against Women was put into effect in March 2012. The issue of preventing the early marriage, however, remains unaddressed.
What are the best strategies for opposing forced child marriage?
The most basic strategy should be abolishment of the discrimination of the gender mainstreaming that affects women negatively and instead implement acceptance of women as independent and equal. Consideration should also be given to the violation of women’s human rights within traditional legal systems. Early forced marriage, polygamous marriage, and the act of exacting a price for the bride should be considered as human rights violations and against state laws. Uninterrupted education will also help prevent girls from marrying early. NGOs should work together with religious leaders in the village at the grassroots level. The health institutions should report early marriages and also inform adolescent girls on the risks of child pregnancy. Since there are unofficial marriages which are not recorded by the Birth Registration Office locally, the data should be gathered by the cooperation with women’s organisations, NGOs and state institutions, village head persons and as well as local officials. The discrepancy between Child Protection Law, Turkish Civil Code, and the Penal Code in the definition of the child should be reconciled with 18 being set as the minimum legal age for marriage on all related legislation (UNFPA 2012). I personally believe that ‘bottom-top’ efforts will eradicate the problem of victimized young girls who are married off before they even get to know about themselves and their bodies. All efforts, no matter how seemingly minor, will change the pain young girls bear and the burden they find in the arms of men instead of playing in the streets like other children of their age.
What are your objectives with this book?
I simply want to see young girls living their own lives instead of one that has been dictated by their parents or by society.
Legitimizing Early Forced Marriages: the Case of Turkey
Sare Demirer, Milena Rampoldi (Ed)