Turkey, child marriages

Study warns about forced marriages with minors in Turkey

Child marriages are associated with poor families in the countryside. 10% of men believe that menstruating girls can marry.

A recent UN report sheds a disturbing picture of the problem of forced marriages with minors in Turkey: a practice that remains relatively prevalent among impoverished families in rural areas, especially in eastern and Southeastern Turkey, despite judicial persecution and financial aid by the Turkish government.

These are the conclusions of a report published a few months ago by the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, better known as UN Women, and entitled “Perception of Men and Adolescents on Early and Forced Marriages with Children in Turkey”, carried out with a sociological study in which 2,733 men were interviewed and the opinions of 29 experts were analysed.

The study points out that the problems surrounding arranged weddings and child marriages emanate from various social and economic factors as well as a deeply rooted patriarchal mentality, and that they are an attempt by the families involved to get out of the circle of poverty; furthermore, UN Women stresses that this practice is legitimised “through a complex intertwining of deeply rooted cultural norms, customs and traditions, as well as religious leanings that are mutually reinforced and reproduced through discourse and practice.”

The research focuses on the problem specifically in 9 provinces of Turkey, in which marriages involving men under the age of 25 and parents of children of child marriages were analysed, as well as control groups made up of married women and vulnerable populations – mainly Syrian refugees, members of the Roma community, and field workers – from various provinces, from Istanbul or İzmir in the west of the country, to Şanlıurfa or Mardin in the southeast.

10% of men believe that menstruating girls can marry

The authors of the study affirm that as the practices of authority and male hegemony increase in the group, opinions and tolerant behaviour towards marriages with minors also increase, for which they conclude that it is a practice that is a reflection of gender inequality and the patriarchal system, to which must be added factors such as social pressure, tradition, sexual relations before marriage, economic difficulties, family care, or security, among others.

The report shows that around 25% of the men consulted considered that minors remain girls until the age of 15, and that they should not marry below that age; but 10% of the men surveyed considered that the moment a girl begins to menstruate, she is “ready for marriage.” The researchers highlight the high degree of child marriages among members of the Roma community, in which both girls and boys are involved.

In addition to shedding a worrying panorama on the problem of forced marriages with minors in Turkey, the study highlights that this type of practices directly harm the schooling of both girls and boys who are forced to marry: it is estimated that a 19% of girls cannot attend class after being forced to marry, while the rate is 10.5% among boys.