Turkey’s ruling AK Party came under fire from the opposition, rights groups and on social media on Friday over a proposal that critics said could allow men accused of sexually abusing girls to avoid punishment if they marry their victims.
The proposal, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, would allow sentencing in cases of sexual abuse committed “without force, threat or trick” before Nov. 16, 2016 to be indefinitely postponed if the perpetrator marries the victim.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the aim of the proposal was to remedy the situation of men who are in jail and are married to women under the age of 18 in a religious ceremony and with the consent of their family. He rejected suggestions that the plan amounted to an “amnesty for rape.”
Civil marriage under the age of 18 is illegal in Turkey, but marriage between men and underage girls through religious ceremonies is not uncommon, particularly in rural parts of the Sunni Muslim nation of 78 million people.
“There are those who got married under age. They don’t know the law, then they have kids, the father goes to jail and the children are alone with their mother,” Yildirim told reporters after Friday prayers, saying that left families “broken.”
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