Turkey says child rape pardon law can be amended but refuses to withdraw proposal

Men who rape underage girls could go free under bill

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The Independent Online

Turkey’s government has asked its critics to formulate a new proposal for a controversial child abuse bill and threatened to continue with the current draft if they do not.

Under the present version, those who rape children could have their convictions quashed or avoid prosecution if they marry their victims.

Yet opposition parties have refused to redevelop the proposals, which have sparked uproar and protests across the country, saying they do not want to be part of a "mistake".

The draft law stipulates that men who sexually abuse girls under 18 without “force, threat or any restriction on consent” and who marry their victim could go free.

“If the opposition parties have a suggestion for an amendment, we are waiting for it,” Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy parliament group chair Mustafa Elitaş told Hurriyet Daily News on Monday, adding that the AKP is not considering withdrawing the proposal.

But when Mr Elitaş called the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Deputy Chair Levent Gök, and asked if the CHP would make alterations, Mr Gök said his party would not amend the bill, since it did not want to be part of a “mistake.”

Mr Elitaş also reportedly called Erkan Akçay from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to ask for a proposal, but was told the party would not make any suggestions until the AKP withdrew the draft law.

“First withdraw the bill, then we can discuss,” the MHP deputy chair told Mr Elitaş, the Turkish daily reported.

Protests in Turkey over child rape law

Opposition parties reacted to the bill with alarm to the AKP's bill when it was first before parliament on Thursday, but it was still approved in a vote.

The country’s government insists the law would help resolve legal challenges caused by widespread child marriage in the country, yet critics argue the bill forgives and even encourages rape.

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Thousands took to the streets of Istanbul to protest the bill (AFP)

In a joint statement, Unicef, UNEFPA, UN Women and UNDP said they were "deeply concerned" about the bill.

"If adopted in its current form, the draft Bill would weaken Turkey’s ability to combat sexual abuse and child marriage," they said.

"It would create a perception of impunity in favour of perpetrators of such child rights violations.

"In addition it would increase the risk for further victimization of the child if she marries the perpetrator of the sexual abuse."

They added: "Any forms of sexual violence against children are crimes which should be punished as such. In all cases the best interest of the child should prevail."

The bill is to be voted on in parliament again on Tuesday, and further protests against the law have been scheduled.

The government has rejected claims the law amounts to an “amnesty for rape”.

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