Children's Rights Commission of Human Rights Association Turkey (İHD) presented a research report at a symposium on Children's Rights organised on June 10. The report indicated that 440 thousand children gave birth in Turkey in the last 16 years.
"Figures on the law show that around 8 thousand children are victims of sexual assault in a year. According to ECPAT Turkey report for 2015, children are the most vulnerable group in Turkey in terms of sexual assault. Around 46 percent of sexual crimes are directed at children in Turkey In terms of sexual harassment of children, Turkey ranks 3rd in the world," Zelal Coşkun, a member of the commission said.
Coşkun also shared figures on child marriages, saying "According to the figures of Turkish Statistical Agency (TÜİK), 482 thousand and 908 girls were married in the last 10 years. In the last 6 years, 142 thousand and 298 children became mothers, most of which were married through religious ceremonies. Since 2002, 440 thousand children under the age of 18 gave birth in Turkey. The number of children under 15 giving birth following a sexual assault is 15 thousand and 937."
Sharing some figures from the Ministry of Justice, Coşkun noted the number of legal cases on sexual assault of children increased around 3 times in the last 10 years. She also noted that according to the figures of 2015, while around 17 thousand legal cases were opened annually against sexual assault of children, 45 percent of legal cases did not resolve with the conviction of the assaulter.
Turkey's ruling AKP party presented a draft law to Turkey's Grand National Assembly on April, dividing sexual crimes against children into two categories; against children under 12 and over 12. This draft law was severely criticised since Turkish law defines all individuals under 18 as children. Many critics argue that this age division in child molestation stems from the AKP government’s Islamic approach, considering that in Quran, the “age of marriage” coincides with puberty. Classical Islamic law (Sharia) does not have a marriageable age because there is no minimum age at which puberty can occur.
According to the figures of the Ministry of National Education, said Coşkun, around 97,4 percent of the children who quit school due to marriage or engagement is the female students. She also added that the number of İmam Hatip Religious Schools increased to 1408 in 2017 from 450 in 2002.
TWO MILLION CHILD LABOURER
Coşkun also talked about child exploitation and noted that the number of child labourers has reached to around two million. "Every 8 children out of 10 are informally employed. The children who work long hours as apprentices as part of their vocational education, especially in the tourism sector, in other words, child labourers, are not formally included in these figures. In 2018, three children at the ages of 15,16 and 17 died while working; they were all agricultural labourers."
PRIVATE SCHOOLS AFFILIATED WITH RELIGIOUS SECTS
Coşkun also noted that there are 10 thousand and 53 private schools in Turkey according to the figures of the Ministry of National Education, and that around one third of them are affiliated with religious sects. She added that around 210 thousand students reside in dormitories of some religious cults, and that this figure does not include dormitories for university students. Noting that 2 thousand and 480 dormitories in Turkey are affiliated with religious cults, some 224 thousand students reside in them.
Systematic sexual abuse of children in an Islamist Ensar Foundation dormitory shook the country with rage in 2016. The foundation is known to be affiliated with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's family and has been firmly backed by the ruling AKP government.
Coşkun said while there are around 850 thousand Syrian refugee children in Turkey, 380 thousand of them are not schooled. She noted that these figures do not include unrecorded children in Turkey, and it means hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugee children are lost generation, vulnerable to all kinds of assaults.
Sharing figures on right to live, Coşkun noted that 68 children between the ages 18-21 died between 2009-2017, and their deaths are recorded as "suspicious".
Coşkun said 18 cases of torture on children were reported in the last 3 years. She also noted that 4 cases of torture and maltreatment on child detainees were reported in 2015, and 10 cases in 2017. She added that around 700 children are in prison with their mother.