07:04 GMT23 September 2020
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    Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced on Tuesday that lawmakers would be shelving the bill for now, as it requires further scrutiny.

    The proposed bill would have pardoned child rapists in sexual assault cases where there was no "force, threat, trick or any other restriction of consent" and where the victim and perpetrator was married, such as with child brides allowed under Islamic law.

    "If a 60-year-old man wants to marry a 10-year-old girl and convinces the family of this, will it be considered as the child's consent?" Cigdem Hacisoftaoglu, a volunteer lawyer working at a women's shelter in Istanbul, asked Deutsche Welle. "And if we talk about consent, when is the proper age for someone to give it? Nine? 11? 16? There is also no limit for the [perpetrator's age]."

    Under Islamic law, where “honor” killings of women are still prevalent, marrying off underage victims of rape is seen as an alternative way to “restore a family’s honor.”

    The bill was scheduled to go to final vote on Tuesday when it was halted.

    The United Nations, many human rights groups, and a large portion of the Turkish public argued that the bill simply provided amnesty for child abuse, and would prompt additional sexual abuse of minors.

    "Any forms of sexual violence against children are crimes which should be punished as such," UNICEF, the UN children's agency, along with four other UN agencies, said in a joint statement released Monday.

    An online petition circulated by Turkish citizens this week had collected over 800,000 signatures against the legislation.

    While the bill is pulled for now, an all-party commission will be reviewing the proposal and it is not completely off of the table yet.


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