The Constitutional Court has ruled to annul a provision that punishes all sexual acts against children under the age of 15 as “sexual abuse,” stirring outrage from academics and women’s rights activists who warn that the decision will lead to cases of child abuse going unpunished.
The Constitutional Court discussed the issue upon an application from a district court, which complained that the current law does not discriminate between age groups in cases of child sexual abuse and treats a 14-year-old as equal to a four-year-old.
The local court said the law does not provide legal consequences for the “consent” of victims in cases where the child victim is from 12 to 15 years of age and able to understand the meaning of the sexual act. “This creates an imbalance between legal benefits and sanctions that should be preserved in crime and punishment,” the application stated.
With seven votes against six, the Constitutional Court agreed with the local court and decided to annul the provision. The decision will come into effect on Jan. 13, 2017.
The local court’s argument and the Constitutional Court’s endorsement have drawn a backlash from academic and human rights circles, which underlined that all individuals under the age of 18 are considered children according to international conventions to which Turkey is a party.
“First of all, every individual under the age of 18 is a ‘child’ according to international conventions. Seeking a child’s consent in cases of sexual abuse is out of the question,” the chair of the Association to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, Professor Bahar Gökler, told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.
Gökler said this “calamitous” decision was in violation of child rights.
The general secretary of the same association, Professor Aysun Baransel, said consent could be sought in cases of sexual intercourse between peers, but it was impossible to speak of consent if the case involves a 60-year-old and a 15-year-old child.
“The most important point is that unless this provision is urgently addressed, child abusers will start walking around freely because there is no new regulation [to fill the void],” Baransel said.
Credit to hurriyetdailynews.com