Christian charity welcomes Turkey U-turn on child marriage bill

Turkey's prime minister Binali Yildirim says his government is withdrawing a bill that would pardon men accused of statutory rape if they marry their victims.

The motion stated that punishment for the sexual abuse of a minor would be deferred in case the act was committed before November 16 and without "force, threat, or any other restriction on consent" and if the perpetrator has married the victim.

Fidan Ataselim from the campaign group "Let's Stop Women's Murders" said it would be hard to establish whether an underage victim gave consent, and the bill would pave the way for forced child marriages.

The U.N. children's fund said on Saturday it was "deeply concerned" over a draft bill in Turkey that would overturn a child sex assault conviction if the offender married his victim.

Prime Minister Binali Yildrim and his government faced stiff opposition and protests in the country's streets and criticism from worldwide communities over the proposal of such a bill.

United Nations agencies had called on the government not to approve the bill, arguing that it would damage the country's ability to combat sexual abuse and child marriage.

Opposition parties from across the political spectrum heavily criticised the bill, which was approved in an initial parliamentary reading on Thursday.

Opposition MPs condemned the bill, warning that such a law would lead to girls being forced into marriage against their will and encourage abusers. "On the other hand, if they don't, we will assess the requests of the public as well as those of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and amend [the proposal]", he said.

Critics, however, say the proposed bill promotes child rape.

The country's Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, said today that the bill was being withdrawn following the outcry.

It said in a statement on Friday that one of the bill's biggest problems would be proving legally what constituted force or consent.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP party are behind the bill that would pardon 3,000 convicted rapists.

Upset has been voiced even in pro-government circles, including by a woman's group supporting the conservative-Islamic ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a female TV presenter on a pro-government channel.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said it could help couples who have engaged in consensual sex and want to marry.

Campaigners accuse the government of not doing enough to stamp out the practice and of being more interested in pushing up the birth rate.

Violence against women is on the rise in Turkey with almost 40 percent of cases of sexual and physical abuse reported.

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