The number of child brides in Turkey totals in excess of 181,000 as of this month, according to data released by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TürkStat), said Nazan Moroğlu, head of the Turkish Association of University Women (TÜKD), at a meeting held in the southern province of Adana on Sunday.
Speaking at a meeting held by TÜKD, Moroğlu emphasized the problems to child brides. While the Convention on the Rights of the Child views any person under 18 as a child, in Turkey one can marry at 17, or even at 16 with the approval of a judge along with parental consent. According to the statistics released by TürkStat the rate of parental consent for legal marriage under the age of 18 increased by 94.2 percent in the last year and the number of child brides is currently more than 181,000. “Making girls marry at a young age is a major obstacle in education. As women make up half of the country's population, a lack of education may hamper development and democracy in our country,” added Moroğlu.
Moroğlu stated that only 2 percent of women have access to a university education, which is far below EU standards. She further stated that every two out of 10 women are still illiterate in Turkey. Young girls forced into early marriage are dependent on their husbands, who are often much older; this situation makes them more vulnerable to domestic violence. Early marriage also leads to early pregnancy, which includes the risk of health complications.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Fact Sheet shows that many Turks continue to marry at a young age: 23 percent of the 582,715 marriages conducted in 2010, for instance, involved a bride under the age of 19. A study of Turkish marriage practices conducted by Hacettepe University in 2011 reveals that the issue of child brides may be more prevalent in Turkey than one might think. The study indicates that almost 40 percent of Turkish women between 15 and 49 years of age were married by their 18th birthday.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) earlier this year released a report which indicated that legal measures taken by the government to protect children and women were appreciated, but the committee drew attention to the issue of child brides as a serious problem. Moreover, the CRC recommended the minimum legal age for marriage in all relevant legislation be set at 18.
Another child bride died as a result of domestic violence in the northwestern province of Adapazarı on Nov. 12. Two years ago Emine Yayla was forced to marry Süleyman Yayla at the age of 15. A year later Emine gave birth to baby girl. After being subjected to physical violence by her husband, she fled to her parents' house with her baby two weeks later. On Nov. 12, Süleyman reportedly entered through the window of her parents' house, stabbed Emine, critically wounding her and left the crime scene. Emine was taken to Sakarya State Hospital, where she later died of her injuries. She was 17. The police have launched an investigation to find Süleyman.