Thousands of rapists and abusers in Turkey avoid jail time by marrying their victims, officials from the country's Supreme Court have warned.
Mustafa Demirdağ, the head of the Supreme Court of Appeals department which oversees sexual crimes in Turkey, said around 3,000 such marriages had been registered officially, according to Turkish news website Milliyet.
Speaking to a parliamentary commission formed to investigate and prevent sexual crimes, Mr Demirdağ mentioned several of the cases studied, which he said were found to affect adults and children as young as five.
In one particular case, a girl had been kidnapped and raped by three individuals, but when one of the men married her, the sentences for all three rapists were lifted.
“That type of marriage is not acceptable,” said Mr Demirdağ, “It is cruel to force someone to marry a person she does not want [to marry] and force her to spend the rest of her life with him.”
According to the Appeals department, offenders of similar crimes can receive sentences of 16 years and eight months in prison.
There have been incidences, however, where this sentencing was not necessarily "fair", the department head added.
As an example, he talked about the case of a 15-year-old girl who fell in love with a boy in her neighbourhood. “She called the boy on the phone that night and said she would commit suicide if he did not come to kidnap her,” said Mr Demirdağ, “Then the boy kidnap[ped] her”.
“Afterwards they [got] married according to the norms of the neighbourhood. When the case came to us, they were already married officially and they had three kids. Before the [new] law came into force, the boy would have been sentenced to a minimum eight years and four months [in prison].”
He went on: “Now it is 16 years and eight months. Do I find this fair? No I don’t. But I am the implementer of the law.”
“Not all the cases fit the same pattern. Yet we do not make categorisations among them.”
Following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that Turkey had failed to protect a victim of domestic violence, Turkey enacted domestic violence legislation in 2012.
Last year, three men were sentenced to life in prison over the murder and attempted rape of 20-year-old student Özgecan Aslan. The case led to nationwide street protests over the issue of violence against women in Turkey.
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