A total of 21,957 minors in Turkey have been recorded by hospitals as pregnant in the last 18 months, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported, citing parliamentary main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy and medical doctor Ali Şeker.
Şeker’s findings come from the Communications Center of the Presidency (CİMER), DW said, where the CHP deputy applied after his efforts in Parliament to determine the number of pregnant minors - below the age of 18 - in the country failed.
"These figures show that every day, unfortunately, more than 40 children have been forced to become a mother, even though they themselves were kids and needed to sit through class," said Şeker, who made the inquiry to the directorate.
His findings follow eyebrow-raising investigations in January and July which found that hospitals in İstanbul covered up the cases of over more than 500 minors - most of them are Syrian girls - who were pregnant as a result of sexual abuse.
The number of child sexual abuse cases that Turkish courts have settled in the last 10 years has quadrupled, according to figures provided by the Justice Ministry.
The number of such settled cases was 3,718 in 2007, whereas it spiked to 16,041 in 2017, as per the data highlighted by CHP deputy Aydın Özer. On the other hand, the total number for the period of 2007-2017 was recorded as 153,139.
REAL NUMBERS COULD BE MUCH HIGHER
"Were these 21,957 cases reported to the police?" asked Emrah Şahin, vice president of the Ankara Bar Association's Center for Children's Rights. Şahin referred to the Turkish Penal Code, which states that all health personnel are obliged to inform the authorities when such underage pregnancies are encountered.
He said that it was unclear how many of these cases were referred to legal authorities and that the number of child pregnancies that went into official records over the past 18 months is only the tip of the iceberg. "These are the registered children, and there are also the unregistered ones," he said. He believes the real number is likely to total between 40,000 and 45,000.
According to the data provided by the Turkish Ministry of Justice, there is a missing link between the number of child pregnancies over the past 18 months and the number of cases regarding sexual crimes against children in 2017.