Almost all Turks are against underage marriage, according to a recent survey’s results, which have been revealed amid a hot debate over the Turkish religious authority’s stance on the matter. Some 84 percent of participants in a survey conducted by the Konda research company believe the minimum age for a marriage should be “above the age of 18,” whereas 13 percent say “the age of 18,” according to a report by pro-government Hürriyet daily news on Thursday.
The report said only 1 percent of survey participants responded “below the age of 18,” according to the results, collected under a report by Konda named “Discussions on Marriage and Marriage Age and Sexual Abuse.” After taking an average of the survey responses, the research company found the desired minimum age for women to marry as 21 and 24 for men.
The survey was conducted face-to face with a total of 2,653 people from Dec. 3-4, 2016 in Turkey’s 32 provinces. Female participants chose a higher minimum age of marriage for men and women in comparison to male participants. The minimum age of marriage chosen by respondents also increased as participants’ education level increased.
Participants who labeled their lifestyles as “modern” also responded with a higher minimum age than those who labeled themselves as “conservative” or “religious.”
The survey also asked participants how right or wrong it was for a victim of sexual abuse to be forced to marry their abuser. Some 90 percent of those interviewed found this social fact as “definitely wrong,” while 4 percent found it “wrong,” 2 percent found it “partially wrong” and 3 percent found it “right.”
Turkey’s state religious authority has stated that girls are able to spiritually marry and become pregnant from the age of nine, according to its website. “It is necessary for a person at risk of entering illegitimate (sexual) relations to marry,” the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) said, adding that any young person who had reached the age of puberty could marry.
The minimum age was nine for girls and 12 for boys, since these were the ages at which they would be able to become parents, it said.
However, according to Turkish law, the minimum possible age of marriage is 16, and even then only with an exceptional legal decision. Ordinarily couples must wait until both parties are 17 with parental permission, or 18 without.
“A woman who has reached the age of puberty may be able to marry herself off without her guardian, but it is recommended that her guardian also be there,” according to Diyanet advice. Marriage is necessary in order to prevent fornication according to religious rules and continue the human race, the Diyanet website said.
However, Diyanet has denied saying girls are able to marry and become pregnant from the age of nine, the BBC’s Turkish service website said. It said the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) had issued a statement saying that news reports saying it had said such a thing were false and did not represent the truth. The news reports quoted the Diyanet’s website as saying that any person who had reached the age of puberty could marry.
The Diyanet’s statement said that even though a woman who had reached puberty could marry, it said that marrying a girl who does not have the responsibility to be a mother and had not reached psychological and biological maturity was not allowed by Islam.
Diyanet official Ekrem Keleş has also claimed the statements on the Diyanet website had been twisted in media reports. “A girl should not marry before the age of 17 and a boy should not marry before the age of 18. No one should have their child marry before the age of 15. This is against Islam,” Keleş told daily Hürriyet.
Keleş made the comments after reactions rose against Diyanet for the “Dictionary of Religious Terms” on its website for including some definitions that said “Girls go through puberty at the age of nine and boys at 12” and that “those who have gone through puberty may marry.”
Diyanet closed its online “Dictionary for Religious Terms” on Thursday following the discussion surrounding the issue.