Two lawmakers from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have submitted a parliamentary question addressing the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Family affairs about increasing cases of child sexual abuse, the Bianet news website reported.
HDP lawmakers Oya Ersoy and Tülay Hatimoğulları Oruç drew attention to the latest sexual abuse case, in which last week a 2-year-old toddler was admitted to a hospital in Istanbul with severe injuries and clear signs of rape. Although the child died, the family did not want an autopsy, claiming she had fallen from a balcony. This raised suspicion among the doctors, who alerted the police.
A preliminary autopsy revealed the severity of the abuse and indicated that the child possibly died from internal injuries related to repeated sexual abuse.
Journalist Evrim Kepenek, who writes for Bianet, reported on the incident and tweeted that she was receiving death threats from family members and was told to retract the news article.
HDP lawmakers asked the two ministries if there were any investigations into this incident and other cases of child sexual abuse. “Will the Ministry of Justice publish a statement concerning the family members of the 2 year old and whether they will face a criminal investigation?” they asked.
They also demanded to know if the family members would face any consequences for threatening journalist Kepenek. Drawing attention to the ministry’s overall silence on child abuse cases, the lawmakers asked if this was the best policy when the cases were rapidly increasing.
Ersoy and Oruç asked if the ministries were working on policies to prevent sexual abuse. “In the last 20 years, how many children have fallen victim to abuse, and how many perpetrators have been punished?” they asked. “Additionally, does the Ministry of Family Affairs provide proper counselling for victims of abuse?”
The number of known child sexual abuse cases has skyrocketed in recent years. According to the Ministry of Justice there were nearly 23.000 recorded cases of child abuse in 2019. The Human Rights Foundation (IHD) said that between 2002 and 2018, 440.000 minors gave birth and that nearly 16.000 were under the age of 15.
The Ministry of Justice has been criticized for a lack of transparency in child abuse cases as they have not published any data since 2019.
Moreover, human rights advocates have criticized the Turkish government for not taking steps against child abuse. Last week a controversial imam in southeastern Şanlıurfa province was slammed for saying children were abused because they were dressed in revealing clothes. Authorities were also criticized for not launching a criminal investigation into the imam.
The government has also been criticized for not properly supervising private dormitories and boarding schools, which have been the center of abuse scandals in the recent years. Often affiliated with religious groups, there have been cases where children have been subjected to physical or sexual abuse in these institutions. In the most notorious case, 45 boys between the ages of 8 and 10 were abused in a private dormitory in central Karaman province.