More than 13,000 children married off in Turkey in 2020

More than 13,000 children were married off in Turkey in 2020 before reaching 18 years of age, according to a report prepared by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Ninety-five percent of the children were girls, the report said, shedding light on the severity of the problem of child marriages in the country.

A protestor holds a banner reading 'No to assault, rape, sexual violence, child abuse' in this file photo.

Duvar English

A total of 13,740 children were married off in Turkey in 2020, and 95 percent of them were girls, daily Sözcü reported on April 23, citing a report of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

The report came on the same day that Turkey marked April 23 national holiday, which is dedicated to children.

Of the 22.7 million children in Turkey, 17 percent of them reside in Istanbul, which corresponds to 3.9 million, the report said.

In Istanbul, 807 children aged between 16-17 were married off last year, according to the report.

The legal age of marriage in Turkey is 18, or 17 with parental consent. In circumstances said to be “exceptional,” people can marry at 16, subject to court approval.

However, it is believed that the prevalence of child marriages is even higher than those shown by statistics due to most child marriages taking place within the sphere of unofficial religious marriages and therefore not being registered.

Many girls are known to be forced into marriages to cover up sexual abuse.

In 2020, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) even prepared a "marry-your-rapist" draft law that sought to allow men accused of having sex with girls to avoid punishment if they marry their victims.

The AKP took a step back from the draft law after it sparked fury among the society.