The government proposed a bill late at night on November 17, 2016 that would grant amnesty to the perpetrators of sexual abuse if they married their victims, and later had to withdraw it following widespread uproar first and foremost from the TPC 103 Women’s Platform comprised of nearly 140 autonomous women’s organizations, as well as from numerous groups in society, ranging from women’s NGOs to children’s NGOs, from general practitioners to lawyers, all across the country and abroad. However, Article 13 of omnibus Draft Law No. 438, which proposed amendments to Article 103 of the Turkish Penal Code (TPC), passed through parliament on November 24, 2016. Accordingly, there is now an age categorization for 12-to-15-year-olds in Article 103 of the TPC.
In its amended form, Article 103 of the TPC does still prevent seeking consent from children below 15 years of age. Yet because age of consent is not clearly stated in the law in a way that leaves no room for interpretation, this could lead to different interpretations in practice, as witnessed in certain cases in the past. Thus, there is a danger that in practice, some courts could seek consent from children between 12 and 15 years of age. While the Constitutional Court justified its decision to annul Article 103 on the argument that children are affected differently from sexual abuse depending on their age, and tried to resolve the matter by creating a separate category for 12-to-15-year-old children, this categorization could cause courts to question the consent of children in this age range and “force them to marry the person who abused them.” Unfortunately, there are cases in Turkey’s juridical history where some courts sought consent from children aged 13, even before this age categorization was introduced. Meanwhile, efforts to generate public perception to the effect that children between 12 and 15 years of age can “consent” to sexual abuse and be married run the risk of opening the door to early marriages, which already has partial political support as evinced by the withdrawn amnesty bill.
In its current form, the article passed through parliament could give rise to the danger of varying interpretations of age of consent. The reason for this is that although the amended article is said to have been developed to increase the legal punishment for the rape of children below the age of 12, it categorizes children by age and opens the door to lowering age of consent to 12. This could clear the legal path to pushing girls into forced and early marriages. Lowering age of consent and marriage to 12 in practice will become very easy if a decision by even a single judge is based on this article and is then accepted as jurisprudence; it would not even have to be enacted into law. Statements by the Justice Minister in relation to past or future de facto marriages based on “the consent of the minor and assent from the family” clearly point to this danger. Children under 15 cannot give consent, and assent from the family cannot cover-up the crime committed by the perpetrator.
Here, once again, are our demands and recommendations to effectively combat children’s sexual abuse:
It is for these reasons that we, as the TPC 103 Women’s Platform, believe that the 12-to-15 age categorization in the amended article could generate different interpretations in practice. Consequently, we call on all members of parliament to do whatever it takes to enact into law our additional demands listed above and ensure Article 103 of the TPC is applied in a way that makes no reference to the consent and marriage of children below 15 years of age. We also call on the public, the media, and all women’s and children’s organizations first and foremost, to monitor relevant court cases and legal decisions in the coming days!
THE TPC 103 WOMEN’S PLATFORM, November 25, 2016
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