Data provided in June 2013 from the Interior Ministry illuminates the situation of child brides in Turkey. While there have been a total of 134,629 marriages involving persons under the age of 18 over the past three years, the number of males under the age of 18 married was just 5,763, while the number of girls under the age of 18 married off was 128,866. In other words, the number of underage girls married off in the past three years is 21 times the number of underage males marrying.
Dr. Dönmez, who stresses that marrying off children under the age of 15 needs to be seen and defined as a violation of children’s rights, says: “For anyone to be forced into marriage — whether they are under the age of 15 or not — is an inhuman and a terrible thing. In fact, the European Union produced 11 directives between the years of 2002 and 2006 aimed at preventing forced marriages. Turkey must also move to make forced marriage an injustice that calls for punishment and define it as its own category of crime. Forced marriage must be defined as a solid crime. This is why not only forcing someone into marriage, but forcing someone to continue a marriage, must be made a crime.”
Dönmez notes that if a law on this subject does get passed, the important thing is that in addition to seeing that courts hand down punishments to those guilty of trying to force young people into marriage, sanctions such as the state-backed removal of youngsters from their families are implemented. She continues: “Sometimes we see girls married off from agreements made at the cradle, other times they are sold like goods. We hear about these dramas every day. What is important is increasing families’ awareness and their education levels. This should become state policy.”
Dr. Ilgın Başaran from Yaşar University notes some of the more disturbing psychological effects of forced marriage at a young age, saying: “To marry off children who are still in primary school is to exploit them on both an emotional and physical level. These are children who are at risk of losing of their identities. For example, a young girl who becomes a mother at an early age might play with her babies as though she was playing with her dolls in his childhood. If her baby dies or she experiences a miscarriage, this child bride might feel sad as if she lost her doll and might lose self-confidence very easily.”