News about “Amnesties for child abuse perpetrators/rapists” has been drawing my attention recently. From Diyarbakır to Balıkesir, from Ankara to Mardin, there is a common voice against this draft bill across Turkey. As a psychologist who dealt with cases of child abuse at the time, I would like to write a few lines and say “Child abuse is untenable!” FULL STOP!
I was on a South American trip for two months between November 21 and January 22. I tried to follow the agenda of Turkey in this period as far as possible. Again, many women killed by men, economic problems, unemployment and suicides were on our agenda. However, the most important agenda that attracted my attention the most and which I thought I should write on it at length was the news about “Amnesties for child abuse perpetrators/rapists”.
Let’s go back to 2016, when this issue first appeared. In 2016, the government introduced a similar draft bill in preparations to declare amnesty for child abuse perpetrators. This draft bill was revolving around “in case of the marriage of the victim and the perpetrator in the crime of sexual abuse, the decision to postpone announcement of the sentence and to postpone the execution of the sentence, if any, regardless of the conditions in Article 231 in Turkish Criminal Code.” Many women, human rights, democratic mass organizations as well as a large number of conscientious individuals, academics or parents stood against it and then draft bill was withdrawn after many protests. The Prime Minister of the period, Binali Yıldırım and Minister of Internal Affairs Bekir Bozdağ at the time claimed that the law proposal on “sexual abuse” crimes would not mean “amnesty for rape”. I have a link for those who want to learn more.
The draft bill was given up under the pressure of public opinion. However, it has been on the agenda for the last few months, again. According to what I have read on various news portals, this draft bill opens a path for amnesty to rapists when girls aged 12-15 are married to those rapists who are maximum 15 years older than the girls. Imagine a 12-year-old girl getting married to her 27-year-old rapist? Did you also get goosebumps on your arms?
I do not understand what they want from these children: To reward the abuser once again for his abuse? To encourage potential abusers to child rapes? To marry the child with the rapist and remind her of the trauma she has experienced repeatedly? To expose the child to emotional and physical violence? To forgive the abuser instead of preventing the victimization of the child?
However, this draft bill will take away many of the basic rights and liberties of our children who are already victims or will be victims. For example, what about their education? When these children marry their rapist, they will be deprived of their right to education and instead they will sit at home and perhaps have children. Beyond that, the issue has a psychological dimension.
Before coming to Norway, I had worked as a ‘Forensic Psychologist’ at Ege University Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Department in Turkey. Depending on my experience, I would like to talk about the psychological destruction that children will experience in the case of passing this bill. How the child’s already wounded soul accompanying her anger, the hatred, the sense of worthlessness, and the isolation will divide her into a thousand pieces if the child marries herself to the rapist. How this marriage turns into an awful situation and this leads to some mental problems for the child such as depression, tantrum, anxiety etc. Especially, when she had a child from her rapist, she has role confusion. That is, she does not know whether she is a child or a mother; the dilemma she has for her own child: the hate or love. While she wants to play with her peers on the street, she has to cook for her husband or take care of her baby. As their peers lie in their parents’ arms and their parent caress their hair before going to bed, she has to suffer through sexual abuse by her rapist again and again.
Instead of chewing the rag, let us focus on protecting our children, especially female children. Let’s discuss social or educational policies that could be beneficial for our children and that facilitate their living standards. Let’s talk about how we can prevent child marriages. Let’s make sure that the rapist wearing a tie does not benefit from ‘exhibiting good behaviour during the court ‘ that causes reduction of his sentence. Instead of supposing that we are protecting the raped child by the means of marriage with her rapist, – restoring her honour (!) which is an inhumane and unacceptable idea – let’s find out how the wounds of those children can be healed, and how these traumas will not happen again. As a family, as a community, as a therapist, let’s discuss how victims can overcome these terrible experiences in lightest way.
As it was stated also during Universal Periodic Review session at the UN Geneva Headquarters by a number of countries, Turkey must take action to prevent early and child marriages.