Adoption of the « Mufti Law » in Turkey

Statement, Turkey, Women's Rights and Gender Equality

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After weeks of protests by women’s organisations and despite ongoing opposition and objections within the parliament, the “Mufti Law” was adopted at the Turkish National Assembly on 19 October 2017. President Erdoğan has won over secularism. From now on, state-registered muftis will be allowed to perform civil marriages.

A mufti is an Islamic scholar who interprets and expounds Islamic law, and a jurist qualified to give authoritative legal opinions. The first marriage performed by a mufti took place on 15 November in the Bismil district.

By giving new powers to muftis, Turkey is stepping further back from secularism. Giving the Muftis the right to conduct a civil ceremony will increase their role and influence in the civil life. The opponents of the regulation fear as well that this bill may just be another step in the direction to render civil marriages completely redundant.

Women’s rights groups fear that the practice itself will increase religious marriages and marriages involving minors. Indeed, the new law proposes the notice of birth to be done verbally only. Women’s rights defenders argue that this change will hinder to trace sexual abuse of girls and forced marriages of minors, as most of those incidents are detected when those girls deliver in hospitals and the given births are documented officially. With the « Mufti law », newborns will be only registered with a simple declaration and families will be able to force underage brides or abused children to give birth at home to avoid prosecution.

Our member, the Human Rights Association in Turkey, has documented 110 cases of child abuse under Article 103 of Turkish Penal Code, which addresses the sexual abuse of minors, in eastern and southeastern Turkey in 2016 and 82 cases in the first six months of 2017.