Thursday 5 March 2020

ATUC calls on local politicians to act over Turkey's "Marry your rapist" law

In response to the horrific law passed recently in Turkey allowing men to escape criminal charges if they marry the woman or child they had raped, ATUC have sent all north east MP's, MSP's and councillors the following letter. 

As we approach International Women's Day, we hope that all our elected representatives will join ATUC in condemning this sickening law.

"For the attention of all local-based elected Politicians: Turkish Government’s new law which allows men to marry the woman or child who they raped

The Aberdeen TUC at its recent monthly meeting agreed unanimously to condemn the Turkish Government’s decision to introduce a new law which allows men to escape criminal justice by marrying the woman or child they had raped.

We urge you to read the Independent and Morning Star newspaper articles below which reflect the serious concerns of many people and progressive organisations that are being raised about this horrendous decision taken by the Turkish Government.

We ask that you write to the Turkish Ambassador based in the UK and support the progressive and humane demand that this outrageous law be rescinded.

We look forward to hearing from you in due course as to what your views are on the Turkish Government’s decision to introduce this outrageous legislation and what action you are taking to support the demand that the law be revoked."

More information: 

Morning Star: Women planning Turkey's first feminist strike

WOMEN from across Turkey will gather for a major two-day conference in Istanbul this weekend intent on turning “the resistance into an organised force.”

The second Women’s Conference in Turkey takes place against a backdrop of diminishing rights in the country under a series of government-led attacks, including plans to introduce a sickening child-rape law.

Under the proposed legislation, paedophiles will be granted amnesty as long as they marry their victims. As many as 4,000 people convicted of sexual offences are set to be pardoned if the Bill is passed by the Turkish parliament as expected.

The conference is organised by Purple Solidarity and supported by many of Turkey’s women’s organisations, trade unions and political parties, including the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Delegates are making plans to launch the country’s first “feminist strike,” hoping to emulate the scenes in Spain, where more than five million took part in a 2018 action.

Purple Solidarity spokeswoman Gamze Ozkok explained that preparations for the conference have been taking place for more than a year, with attendance expected from women involved in struggle across the world.

“We will discuss how to transform the spontaneous women’s struggle into an organised force,” she said.

“While tens of thousands of women took to the streets against abortion in Poland, women in Sudan took to the streets against the existing dictatorship. We can say the same thing for Europe and other countries.

“International struggle is very important,” Ms Ozkok said. “One of the most important things on our agenda is to organise a feminist strike.”

Turkey remains one of the most unequal countries in the world for women; the country is ranked 130th out of 153 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index 2020.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has presided over increasing discrimination against women, even stating that he believes those who don’t have children are abnormal.

He insists that women should only exist in the domestic sphere. His efforts to remove them from political life has seen the HDP’s co-chair system, which guarantees equality at all levels of the party, branded “terrorism.”

Prompted by a series of brutal murders of women and an upsurge in violent attacks last year, the conference will also discuss self-defence.

Ms Ozkok said: “Women are faced with serious cases of violence at home from their spouse, or outside from the police…

“Self-defence is our most important issue and we will deal with this … at the conference.”



Independent: Turkey’s ‘marry your rapist’ law has taken women’s rights right back to the 1950s

To say this is alarming is an understatement. With the president conveying this message, it will only be a matter of time before society buys into the idea that women's rights don't matter

I’ve always been appalled at the fact my Turkish father’s aunt was forced to marry the man who raped her when she was a teenager. I try to console myself with the fact this was a Turkish village in the 1950s and that a lot has changed since then, but with a "marry-your-rapist" bill set to be introduced in Turkey in a matter of days, I’m having difficulty.

This bill will release scores of men who have been sentenced for committing statutory rape – Turkish newspaper Hürriyet estimates this currently stands at around 4000 – on the condition they marry their victim. Whether there will be a limit as to the age difference between the two parties is still undecided. If there is to be one, it will be set at either 10 or 15 years – a small, yet still utterly detestable, concession.

This whole bill is detestable. In fact, even that word fails to convey the absolute anger, horror and disgust felt towards the bill by many women – and men – of Turkish heritage. In an age where sexual harassment against women is finally becoming taboo, where countries who have a more conservative culture, such as Palestine or Egypt, are finally repealing easy escapes for rapists, why would you bring in such a law? Why would you take such a step back? And it is a huge step back for Turkey. In 2004, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AK Party actually doubled the sentence for child abusers and removed the very law they are now bringing back.

Looking at Erdoğan’s political views as a whole, I believe there can only be one reason: the notion that marriage and children will put Turkey on course to become a major player in the world. He states that "strong nations come from strong families". It’s also why, time after time, he has advocated for Turkish families to have three children, and why, two weeks ago, he declared that having children or living together outside marriage is not in the Islamic – and therefore Turkish – culture. Yet forcing a girl to marry her rapist is not accepted in today’s Turkish culture either; it is seen by the majority as sexual abuse.

Erdoğan, who claimed last week that he will never allow a reduction in sentencing for crimes such as terror or sexual abuse but who is allowing this "marry-your-rapist" bill through, clearly doesn’t see it as such. Instead, he considers it a way for his aims to be met, a way for the population to rise. A rapist marrying his young victim not only means that any child borne from the incident will be legitimised but, with the girl still possessing many fertile years ahead of her, she will also be able to produce more children.

To say this is extremely alarming is an understatement. The main implication of this law is that women in Turkey are not to be valued; they are simply baby-makers and nothing more. With the president and the law conveying this message, it will only be a matter of time before society believes it, which will consequently have a devastating impact on women’s rights across the country.

Men will feel far more dominant over women and the female body than they already do, which will lead to a growth in rape as well as domestic violence or abuse. The rate of femicide will rise despite it already being very high – according to one Turkish women’s platform, around 474 women were killed in 2019, nearly four times the number of women killed in the UK in 2018 – and self-harm and suicide amongst women will increase as a result of them being stuck in unhappy homes with a man, and possibly children, they didn’t ask for.

That the president and parliament thought not to consider the repercussions of this "marry-your-rapist" bill is shameful. They should realise that forcing families, once again, to push their young daughters into lives of misery because they are seen as "damaged goods", is reprehensible.

Turkey used to be progressive on the topic of women’s rights. In the past 20 years, the ban on headscarves in state institutions or in the army has been lifted and mothers have found a work-life balance through the introduction of “milk leave” – 1.5 hours out of every working day to feed their new baby. But this new law will actively erode nearly all of that progress.

The "marry-your-rapist" bill is taking Turkey back to the 1950s. Regardless of what Erdoğan might think about the value of such a law, it’s actually ruining any chance Turkey has of being a truly modern player in the world. So, solidarity to all those women who will be affected by this and a great big thank you to those that have taken to the streets in protest. This is a huge fight for women for so many reasons – we won't give up now.