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Which Marriages Are Considered To Be Child Marriages According To Turkish Law?

Child marriages are defined as a formal marriage union that takes place before the age of eighteen according to UNICEF. Even though the legal age of consent for child marriages is eighteen universally, according to the Turkish Civil Code, clause 124; “A man or women can not get married until they are seventeen. However, a judge may be allowed to marry men and women who have completed their sixteen years of age in exceptional circumstances or for some very important reason.” In the clause 11, however, for one to be considered an adult they have to complete eighteen years of age.

If we were to investigate the law, clause by clause, it is not evident which age group is considered to be a child and which is not. Because different clauses of different manuscripts contradict each other. According to Turkish Civil Law the age of consent for marriage is seventeen, according to the Turkish Child Protection Law it is eighteen, and according to the Turkish Criminal Code it is fifteen. This uncertainty between legislations and laws causes any efforts to stop children of families to be forcefully married under the age of eighteen to be ineffective.

Despite these complicated regulations in Turkey, international regulations have a common judgement when determining the age of consent for marriage. Everyone who has not completed the age of eighteen according to international regulations, including the United Nations Convention of Child Rights, is a child. The Commission of the Prevention of Discrimination Against Women decided the minimum age for marriage to be eighteen for both men and women. The Committee of Child Rights also stated in in 2003, in its General Opinion, No. 4, that the minimum marriage age for men and women must be eighteen. The laws and regulations of the Turkish Civil Code regarding the age of marriage does not comply with international legal laws.

Bearing in mind the evaluations made above, the age of consent for marriage in Turkey can be categorized into two circumstances: consent for exceptional circumstances decided by the judge, which is age sixteen; the age of consent under normal circumstances, which is seventeen.