Top government officials in Turkey have defended a piece of legislation that would allow men to evade punishment for sexual assault by marrying the underage girls they abused amid growing outrage.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag (pictured next to Erdogan) insisted the bill was aimed at regulating an existing problem of child marriage and that it does not intend to grant amnesty to rapists. The proposed law does not apply to cases where force was used.
Among the Roma community the problem was especially frequent, Bozdag was quoted as saying by the Dogan news agency. He charged that men often married underage girls at the behest of their parents.
Critics from women’s rights groups and secular opposition parties insisted the proposal effectively legalises existing instances of child marriage and does not help fix the problem. The bill only applies to criminal cases opened prior to this week.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim charged that the opposition was playing “dirty politics” with the affair. However, he has ordered his conservative-Islamic Justice and Development Party, whose members presented the bill to parliament, to consult with the opposition parties on the matter.
The bill will face a vote on Tuesday in parliament. It received a majority of votes this week but that session did not have the needed quorum to push the bill into law.