Thousands of sex offenders in Turkey are marrying their victims in a bid to avoid going to jail, the head of the country’s supreme court has warned.
According to Mustafa Demirdag, the head of the court’s appeal department, around 3,000 such marriages have been officially registered where the victim has tied the knot with her attacker.
The figures were revealed after the Turkish parliament set up a commission to investigate and prevent sexual crimes in the country.
He said that the rules could impact adults and children as young as five and added that type of marriage was ‘not acceptable’.
He told the Turkish news website Milliyet: ‘It is cruel to force someone to marry a person she does not want and force her to spend the rest of the her life with him.’
Mr Demirdag also pointed to a case where one girl had been kidnapped and raped by three men, but when one married her, the sentences of all of them were lifted.
He also talked about a case of a 15-year-old girl who fell in love with a boy in her neighbourhood.
The head of the appeals court added: ‘She called the boy on the phone that night and said she would commit suicide if he did not come to kidnap her. Then the boy kidnapped her.
‘Afterwards they [got] married according to the norms of the neighbourhood. When the case came to us, they were already married officially and they had three kids.
‘Before the [new] law came into force, the boy would have been sentenced to a minimum eight years and four months [in prison].’
Mr Demirdag’s comments come after last year a Turkish court sentenced three men to life in prison over the murder and attempted rape of a 20-year-old student.
The case led to nationwide street protests over the issue of violence against women.
Özgecan Aslan was bludgeoned and stabbed to death in February 2015 as she returned home on a minibus from a shopping trip.
The court sentenced the bus driver, Ahmet Suphi Altındöken, to aggravated life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for attempting to rape Aslan and then murdering her.
The Turkish authorities acknowledge the country has a grave problem of violence against women – often involving wives killed by their husbands – but activists say not enough action has been taken.
According to the Platform to Stop Violence Against Women, 258 women were murdered in Turkey in 2015; the figure for 2014 was 286.