A row has erupted between the Turkish and Austrian governments following a decision by the Turkish Constitutional court to effectively lower the age of consent in Turkey to 12. The decision, made last month, was reported in Austrian newspapers whose headlines were used in news tickers at Vienna’s international airport. This caused Turkey to summon Austria’s charge d’affairs on Saturday. The headline has now been removed from the ticker. Local activists in Turkey have not welcomed the decision. “First of all, every individual under the age of 18 is a ‘child’ according to international conventions. Seeking a child’s consent in cases of sexual abuse is out of the question,” said Prof. Bahar Gokler, the chair of the Association to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect.
Meanwhile, it seems that the Turkish government doesn’t sweat at all when it comes to the aftermath of what is widely considered a calamitous decision. A high-ranking Turkish diplomat, who requested anonymity, told the Turkish Hurriyet paper that one of the main reasons for making such a controversial decision was the “over-liberalization” of the modern Turkish society, which many are blaming on “accepting harmful Western standards” and “steering away from traditional Islam.” According to the diplomat, the decision was “meant to demonstrate to the public and the world that the Turkish government still upholds traditional Islamic cultural and religious values.”
“It was widely though that this was the best way to achieve that,” he said and added that “there was only one vote” against the ruling. “But mainly, the underlying issue that the Constitutional Court was, in fact, attempting to resolve had to do with an increasing number of failed arranged marriages in the more rural parts of the country where Sharia law is still practiced,” the diplomat added.
Indeed, statistics show that over the past two years there has been a rise in failed marriage arrangements between prospective grooms and their much younger brides-to-be. “According to sources in the field, the failed marriages had to do with the brides being physically incapable of withstanding the wedding night. This led to the husbands’ dissatisfaction and ultimately, divorce,” he said.
“As far as the public is concerned, the decision was made for the purpose of counteracting an increasing number of Western influences on modern Turkish society,” the diplomat added. “But behind closed doors, it was designed to ensure that prospective grooms are allowed to test their potential brides before the wedding night to make sure they are the right match. If so, the marriages should go forward as planned. If not, the cat will be out of the bag and both the bride and groom will be able to look elsewhere for a mate, completely free of guilt or blame.”
The source also added that the decision is nothing surprising in the eyes of traditional Turks: “To the elder generations who have been around through more challenging times, this is as mundane as raising taxes, because this used to be common practice back in the days of Kemal Ataturk. Many of them even celebrated the decision.”
It is the younger generations, however, that seem to have problem with this. “And we suspect it is also because of the harmful Western influence, which emphasizes individualism and all kinds of perversions. The full extent of the consequences of this historical decision remains to be seen, but one thing is certain – speaking in the language of Monopoly, many male Turks living throughout the country were just given a get-out-of-jail-free card, quite literally,” he concluded.