This note is prepared by Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation for the submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the Pre-sessional Meeting and Report Prior to Adoption of the List of Issues 93rd Pre-session (26-30 September 2022)
Minimum age for marriage
In the previous concluding observations, in paragraph no.27, Committee recommended the minimum age for marriage to be strictly 18 and full enforcement of this legal obligation: “The Committee recommends that the State party consider raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 years, and ensure full compliance therewith throughout the country, including in rural and remote areas.” The CEDAW Committee, too, underlined this issue in General Recommendations paragraph no. 56(a) declared in July 2022.
However, in practice exceptions are allowed for marriages at the age of 17 with approval of the parents and, in exceptional circumstances, at the age of 16 with approval by a judge. It is very difficult to reach statistical data on the number of girls who were married before the age of 18, due to the fact that most of the marriages are not a legal marriage, but a ‘religious marriage’, and mainly also because the state does not collect or share data on this issue. Specifically, in the case of immigrant and refugee girls, the early-age marriage issue is not adequately surveilled and monitored, and accepted as a “cultural” phenomenon.
Best Interest of the Child
In the previous concluding observations paragraph no.31, The Committee requests the State Party to provide information on the application of the principle of the best interest of the child in all legislative, administrative and judicial proceedings, in its next periodic report. Based on experiences that we gain from women and their children who apply to Mor Çatı, we observe that it is still a very common problem in Turkey that children exposed to violence experience secondary victimization during the trial process. Child Monitoring Centers (ÇİM) and Judicial Interview Rooms (AGO), which are stated to have been established as a measure against secondary victimization, remain ineffective for several reasons. First of all, using these measures requires a disproportionate amount of bureaucratic burden on social workers and prosecutors that discourage them. Secondly, Child Monitoring Centers (ÇİM) can only be used in cases of the sexual abuse of the child, whereas for other cases of violence no alternative is presented. Besides, in cases where sexual abuse is in question, there is no clarity on the criteria and bureaucracy of the referral and there are different practices in different cities. Whereas, it is a common practice to take children’s statements again in court, even if they give their testimonies initially in Child Monitoring Centers (ÇİM). Besides, the methods while taking statements are not child-friendly. Thirdly, in regards to the Judicial Interview Rooms (AGO), the use of these rooms is not very common yet. There is no common knowledge on how and through which procedures these rooms can be used. These rooms are only used in sexual violence cases but they not used in divorce cases; the judges still request to take children’s testimonies in the courtroom during divorce trials, by going against the best interest of the child. In regards to both Child Monitoring Centers (ÇİM) and Judicial Interview Rooms (AGO), we observe that the prosecutors and judges do not always take the recommendations of experts into account. There are judges and prosecutors who do not have the knowledge required by these practices, and implementations against the best interests of children are implemented frequently.
In observations paragraph No. 49 (a), (b), (c), (d), the Committee also requests the State Party to provide information in its next periodic report on measures to prevent all forms of violence against children and the effective implementation of Law No. 6284. Domestic violence against children and their needs are invisible within the system. Although the law No. 6284 refers to the family members as subjects to be affected by violence and include regulations regarding children as well, these laws and regulations are not implemented in practice. Failure to implement measures such as temporary custody and alimony for children with the aim to “maintain the father-child bond” put the child and mother at risk. There are cases where the judges do not limit the father’s personal relationship with the child even when the child is exposed to violence, the mother and children continue to be subjected to violence during the divorce process, and the family courts ignore this situation even though there are ongoing cases in the criminal courts. We have experiences of an increasing number of cases where the abusive father is granted visitation rights. The recent legal change on child delivery (adopted in November 2021) further this problem as it makes it easier for the women’s right to custody to be removed with the claim that she prevents the personal relationship with the violent father. This recent amendment envisions child visitation centers where children are able to meet with the father under surveillance and protection. However, these centers are only available in a number of cities.
In regards to the measures for children to report the violence that they experience, The State Party in its report refers to the Alo 183” Social Support Hotline as an available hotline service for children. However, specialized support services are not provided at 183, which is the only hotline for all different groups in need of social services. The supports provided consist of basic information; those who provide support are not professionals but call center employees. In order to be able to file an official complaint, the perpetrator’s full address and personal information are required by this hotline. Lastly, the hotline 183 does not take any action regarding coordination and monitoring by directing it to the relevant unit of the Ministry after receiving any notification, and we observe that the assessment of the notifications can take even a few weeks.
The State Party refers to ‘Sex Education for Children and Adolescents’ as preventive measures. The contents of these trainings do not provide a comprehensive sexuality education approach. These trainings emphasize only the genitals as private parts but do not meet the criteria for a comprehensive sexuality education.