Girls as young as nine and boys as young as 12 can marry under Islamic law. This is according to an online glossary of Islamic terms was posted by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), which is responsible for administering religious institutions and education.
As reported by The Independent, the website said that, according to Islamic law, whoever had reached the age of adolescence had the right to marry. Elsewhere, the beginning of adolescence was defined as nine and 12 for girls and boys respectively.
Although the glossary has since been removed, 30 MPs from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) have called upon the government to launch a parliamentary inquiry into child marriages.
The legal age of marriage in Turkey is 18, or 17 with parental consent. In exceptional circumstances people can marry at 16, subject to court approval.
However, child marriage in religious ceremonies is widespread in Turkey, taking place in clandestine ceremonies often conducted by a local elder and held at a family’s home.
It is a problem the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) claimed it was trying to curb when it brought forward a controversial bill in 2016, which would have allowed men who sexually abused children the chance to have their convictions quashed if they married their victims.
Parliament approved the bill in the initial reading but it was pulled before it could reach a final vote, after thousands took to the streets in protest.