Turkey is a largely patriarchal society and it appears that the country's lawmakers want to travel back in time to the dark ages.
The #MeToo movement made waves across international waters, but it appears that millions of women standing up for their right to bodily autonomy simply hasn't been enough thunder and lightning for governments across the world. In an archaic move, the parliament of Turkey has decided to introduce a so-called "marry-your-rapist" bill, which will force victims of sexual assault under the age of 18 to marry their assaulters. If that isn't regressive, we don't know what is. According to critics of the bill, such legislation would only legitimize child marriage, minimize the gravity of sexual assault, and pave the way for further abuse, The Independent reports.
The bill will be introduced in parliament by Turkish lawmakers by the end of January. Before it is introduced, women's rights activists across the country are striking back. The country's opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has also joined the fight against the regressive bill. In an interview with The Independent, Suad Abu-Dayyeh, an activist with Equality Now, which specializes in the rights of women and girls in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, claimed it was "shocking" that politicians would propose such a bill. She said, "I applaud the brave work of women’s rights campaigners in Turkey who are taking a stand against this discriminatory bill and pushing back again regressive forces that are seeking to remove current legal protections for girls. Similar 'marry-your-rapist' legal provisions have been on the statute books of countries across the Middle East and North Africa. Thanks to years of campaigning by women’s rights activists and lawmakers, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Palestine have all removed these loopholes in recent years. Rather than attempting to introduce legislation that harms women's rights and protections, Turkish lawmakers should take heed of these advances in repealing gender discriminatory laws." She added that the bill simply "provides impunity for perpetrators of child sexual exploitation."
This is not the first time the Middle Eastern nation has introduced such an oppressive bill. In 2016, a similar bill was introduced in parliament by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who once claimed equality between men and women is "against nature" at a summit in Istanbul that took place in 2014. Thankfully, it was defeated after it sparked immense outrage both at home as well as from international actors. Violence against women is prevalent in Turkey. According to data from the United Nations, a shocking 38 percent of Turkish women have suffered physical or sexual violence from a partner. However, concepts of shame and honor, too, are prevalent, which explains the reemergence of such a bill.
The United Nations and its agencies have thus stepped in to warn the country against passing the bill. The organizations suggested that "the bill would generate a landscape of impunity for child abuse and leave victims vulnerable to experiencing additional mistreatment and distress from their assailants." But it is unclear if this criticism will make an impact on Turkish lawmakers or simply fall on deaf ears. Women's rights have progressed because of the brave and fierce activism of local and international bodies and protestors. Hopefully, Turkey will not regress to the dark ages and will choose instead to listen to survivors and their pleas.