Burcu Özkaya Günaydın / DUVAR

Women who were forced to marry when they were children has described what life was like when they found themselves in a marriage.

Proposed regulations that would grant amnesty to rapists that married their victims were taken off the table after mounting reactions from the public and women’s rights organizations. However, the regulation again returned to the agenda amid legislation passed during the coronavirus pandemic that enabled thousands of prisoners to be released before finishing their sentences. 

Some supporters have described the regulation as one which would “save broken families,” while people on social media and television programs have made remarks such as “Our grandmothers and grandfathers married when they were 14 or 15 and they were very happy.” 

We decided to turn our attention to the women who were married when they were children. Some were 14, others were 17. But none of them wanted these marriages. “I loved my husband but I wasn’t in love,” and “I wanted to go home after the wedding,” were some of the comments we heard from those who were married as children years ago. 

Neslihan A.

33-year old Neslihan A. was married at the age of 17. Her husband went abroad for work, and Neslihan stayed behind with his family. She was exposed to psychological violence by her husband and his family for years. 

“Early marriage did not bring me happiness. On the other hand, before becoming an individual, family members are associated with you differently. For example, when I was somehow persuaded to marry [by force], their first action was to try to keep me apart from my peers and my siblings,” Neslihan said. 

“For some, marriage is a game and for others, it is a nightmare. For me, it was a nightmare,” she added, saying that when she was married she had no conception of sexuality and thought that children were conceived by kissing on the lips. Neslihan struggled hard to get out of the marriage, forgoing her right to alimony to end the marriage as soon as possible. 

Emel Yüksel

Emel Yüksel experienced a similar scenario. She was told at the age of 14 that someone wanted to marry her, and she agreed to it without understanding what the concept of marriage was. Like with Neslihan, Emel’s husband went abroad to work, and she was exposed to years of psychological and physical violence when she lived with his family. 

“I got married without knowing what love and marriage were. It was a sense of duty. I don’t find this early child marriage law to be right,” Yüksel said. 

Leyla Yolcu was 17 when she married her cousin. Her father told her that since her uncle’s financial situation was good that she would be comfortable. Leyla said that with time she began to love her husband, but that she was never in love with him. 

Rather than marrying, Leyla wanted to continue her education and become a nurse. She still has not forgiven her father, who she says stole her future. On her wedding night, she said she still did not know what marriage was and stayed by her brother’s side until the morning after the wedding. 

“Before my father died he wanted to speak with me. He said ‘you were never happy, forgive me!’ I didn’t forgive him, because this life wasn’t mine. For this reason, I will always be against this law that legitimizes child marriages,” Leyla said.