Turkey’s directorate of religious affairs said that under Islamic law girls as young as nine-year-old could marry, leading to Turkey’s main opposition party to call for parliamentary inquiry over the matter.
The comments by the Diyanet, the state body which administers religious institutions and education, sparked outrage on social media from Turkish women’s groups.
Even though Turkey’s legal age of marriage is 18 but the practice of child marriage in religious ceremonies is prevalent among religious groups in Turkey.
Turkish law also permits 17-year-olds to marry with the consent of their parents or guardian, or 16-year-olds in exceptional circumstances with court approval.
The Diyanet’s recent statement on adolescence sparked the outcry among secular Turkish.
It said that, according to Islamic law, the beginning of adolescence for boys was the age of 12 and for girls the age of nine.
It later added that whoever reached the age of adolescence had the right to marry.
Thirty MPs of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) urged the government to launch an investigation into child marriage.
In a later statement, the Diyanet said it was only defining Islamic law and that it did not approve or support early marriages.
“Forcing a young girl to marry someone before they obtain the psychological and biological maturity, and before they gain the responsibility to make a family and become a mother, would not comply with Islam which puts consent and will as a condition in a marriage,” it said in its website.
“Our directorate has never approved early marriages in the past, and it never will,” the Diyanet added in a statement posted online.
In recent years, the tension between supporters of Turkey’s secular constitution and religious conservatives have increased in Turkey.
In 2016, the government withdrew a bill that would pardon men convicted of sex with underage girls if they had married them.
Critics said it would legitimize statutory rape and encourage the practice of taking child brides.
People took to the streets to protest the controversial bill in Turkey and the piece of legislation was condemned abroad.
More details to follow. Image 1 of people protesting in Turkey from The New York Times.