Turkish Bill Clearing Men Accused of Raping Underage Girls Passes First Parliament Vote

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish parliament approved a preliminary bill which would clear men accused of raping underage girls if they marry her.

Thousands protested a new bill that would clear men accused of raping underage girls (Photo courtesy of Digital Journal)

The bill, which was brought to parliament by President Erdogan’s party, was preliminarily approved on the evening of November 17th. The parliament will debate the bill a second time on November 22nd before casting their final vote.

The Turkish government stated that the bill is designed to pardon men only on the basis of sex that is “without force or threat,” and if the offense was committed before November 11, 2016.

There has been strong opposition to the bill in many parts of the country, including by members of parliament, with many protestors stating that it is an encouragement for rape. Critics of the bill declare that it “legitimizes rape and child marriage,” and that it “lets off men who are aware of their crime.” Parliament member Ozgur Ozel stated that “sexual abuse is a crime” which does not require consent. He added that “seeking the consent of a child is something that universal law does not provide for.”

It is anticipated that approximately 3,000 men accused of assaulting a girl under 18 will have their convictions repealed if the bill is passed. On Saturday, November 19th, thousands of people attended a demonstration in Istanbul protesting the bill. The crowds, wielding banners stating “#AKP take your hands off my body,” shouted anti-government slogans, declaring “we will not shut up. We will not obey. Withdraw the bill immediately.” Further mass protests are expected if the bill passes following Tuesday’s vote.

The UN Children’s Fund stated that it was “deeply concerned” over the bill. The Fund’s spokesman indicated that “these abject forms of violence against children are crimes which should be punished as such, and in all cases the best interest of the child should prevail.”

The government has defended the bill by stating that its aim is not to excuse rape, but to “rehabilitate” men who may not have realized the unlawfulness of their sexual relations or to prevent underage girls who have sex from “feeling ostracized by their community.” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated that the bill “is not an amnesty for rape,” and that the country has very “serious punishments for rape.” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag indicated that the bill could help couples who want to marry after engaging in consensual relations. He stated that when a child is born from a non-official union, the mother and child are subjected to financial difficulty because the father will be arrested after the doctor informs the prosecutor.

Turkey has experienced a steep increase in violence against women in the past decade, with 40% of women reporting sexual or physical abuse.

For more information, please see:

Euro News—When is rape not a crime? Turkey considers proposal for controversial sexual abuse law—18 November 2016

Anadolu Agency—Turkish justice minister clarifies law changes—18 November 2016

Ahram Online —Thousands rally against Turkey child sex conviction bill—19 November 2016

BBC News—Turkish bill clears men of statutory rape if they marry—18 November 2016

TRT World—Proposed bill sparks debate in Turkey—18 November 2016


Peru To Introduce Bill To Broaden Scope Of Domestic Violence

By Brendan Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, Peru – In an effort to curb the rampant violence against women experienced in Latin America, the Executive branch of the Peruvian government is proposing legislation in order to expand the definition to further protect its population. The submitted bill will amend the countries Law on Protection against Domestic Violence (LPDV) expanding the definition of violence to include coercion via sexual, physical, psychological and economic means.

The Executive Branch of Peru is introducing legislature that would broaden the definition of Domestic Violence. (Photo courtesy of Gestion)

According to independent estimates in Peru, 50% of women in urban areas have experienced at least one instance of physical or sexual violence, with that number rising to 69% in rural areas, and with 30 percent of women suffering some sort of psychological abuse as a result of their partners.

This new bill is just the next step that President Ollanta Humala’s fight to bring Peru into the 21st Century. The National Parliament of Peru approved a bill that would modify the National Plan of Reparation in order to include compensation for survivors of sexual violence. This would allow those forced into prostitution, sexual slavery, survivors of sexual abuse and kidnappings that occurred in Peru’s violent wartime past. These victims will be allowed to seek compensation for any sexually based crimes that were forced upon.

The initiative to amend the LPDV would mean that any act or omission, directly or indirectly, produced between household members that could result in any type of impairment of physical, sexual or psychological or economic detriment would be punishable. Earlier domestic violence was hard to identify, with only immediately view able situations or evidence such as bruises was domestic violence easy to punish. Domestic violence has been known to affect not just the abused, but the health of children within violent households. Peruvian children whose mothers suffered from domestic violence tend to weigh less and are more likely to suffer from disease. Seeing as nearly 50% of women in Peru have reported some type of violence, these results have widespread meaning.

Economic violence would be classified as any attempt to coerce the autonomy a household, which would cause financial or property damage through loss, conversion, theft or destruction property of the partnership or owned by the victim.

The reasoning behind the amended bill works under the theory that actions of a sexual nature committed against someone against their consent or during times of duress, even without penetration constitutes a violation of human rights and an offense to human dignity.

With Peru’s less than impeccable past concerning women’s rights, this represents at least an attempt to curb the epidemic of gender inequality that haunts the Latin American country.

For more information, please see:

Gestion – Executive Proposes To Expand The Legal Definition Of Domestic Violence – 10 February 2013

Eval Central – Development That Works: The Costs Of Crime And Violence In Latin America And The Caribbean – 5 February 2013

Womankind – Peru Moves To Bring Justice For Women Survivors Of Sexual Violence During Conflict – 5 June 2012

United States Institute of Peace – Sexual Violence And Justice In Postconflict Peru – 1 June 2012

US House Leaders Prepare Gift to Putin?

Press Release
World Affairs — 2 August 2012

Two days before leaving for the August recess, the leaders of the US House of Representatives announced that the two interconnected Russia bills—the extension of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) and the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which proposes to sanction Russian human rights violators by denying them US visas and freezing their US assets—will not be considered on the floor until September and, most likely, until the lame-duck session after the November election. One of the key reasons, according to several sources on the Hill, is the unwillingness of some Republican lawmakers to extend PNTR, which they consider “a gift to Vladimir Putin.” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, suggested that PNTR would constitute “yet another concession to a regime that abuses the human rights of its citizens,” urging her colleagues to pass the Magnitsky Act on its own.

The reality is that the Magnitsky Act, opposed by the White House (in unison with the Kremlin) from the very beginning, can only become law if connected with PNTR. The choice, in this case, is both or neither. PNTR would not represent any kind of “gift” or “concession” to Putin. Russia is set to join the World Trade Organization on August 22nd regardless of what the US Congress does. After that date, the only ones who would be hurt by the lack of PNTR with Russia are US exporters. Furthermore, the retention of the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendement, which deals with the (non-existent) emigration restrictions in the (non-existent) Soviet Union, does not in the least bother the Kremlin leaders. In fact, it allows them to portray the US as “anti-Russian” for maintaining sanctions that are no longer relevant.

What would be a gift to Vladimir Putin is the failure to pass the Magnitsky Act—a bill that directly addresses the very real (and very grave) problems with the rule of law in today’s Russia, and which establishes much-needed personal accountability for Kremlin officials complicit in corruption and human rights violations. The nervous reaction from Moscow shows beyond doubt how afraid the Putin regime is of this bill becoming law. In fact, Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, has publicly stated that, given this choice, the Kremlin would prefer to keep Jackson-Vanik. Conversely, the leaders of Russia’s democratic opposition (including Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Kasyanov, and Garry Kasparov) have publicly advocated replacing the 1974 amendment with the Magnitsky Act. As Nemtsov and Kasparov argued in a recent article, “replacing Jackson-Vanik with [Magnitsky] would promote better relations between the people of the US and Russia while refusing to provide aid and comfort to a tyrant and his regime.”

The time is running out. Delaying consideration of the PNTR/Magnitsky package increases the likelihood not only of a lack of place on the legislative schedule, but also of a post-election White House veto. It would be ironic if those who do not want to provide any “concessions” to Putin would hand him the greatest victory of all.

Newsflash Update 
On Thursday evening, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) issued the following statement:

“Upon our return from the August constituent work period, the House is prepared to take up under suspension of the rules a bill to extend Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to Russia, combined with the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, should the Senate and President commit to support passage before the end of September.”

Russia’s New Law Labels NGOs as “Foreign Agents”

By Connie Hong
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia– Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill that labels all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that engage in political activity as “foreign agents.” Opposition groups believe that the new law is yet another method for Putin to silence political dissent.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo Courtesy of Ria Novosti)
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo Courtesy of Ria Novosti)

The bill was quickly pushed through the lower and upper houses of parliament before their summer breaks; the State Duma lower house approved the bill on July 13, and the upper house Federation Council approved of it on July 18. Putin signed the bill into law just four days later on July 21.

This new law requires NGOs that receive funding from abroad to register with the authorities as foreign agents. They are further required to publish a biannual report on their activities and carry out an annual financial audit in order to regularly inform the public on their sources of income and their management. They are also required to comply with official checks of their income, accounting, and management structures. Failure to abide by the new legislation could result in four-year jail sentences and/or fines of up to 300,000 rubles ($9,200).

The new law applies broadly to NGOs engaging in political activity, but exempts religious groups and organizations associated with the state or state companies.

Activists are concerned that the law will be used to stigmatize critical NGOs, specifically the ones that report on human rights abuses committed under Putin’s rule. The new law has also been criticized as another attempt to curb free speech and limit information available to the public.

The legislation has gained international attention as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay recently expressed concern about “a worrying shift in the legislative environment governing the enjoyment of the freedoms of assembly, association, speech, and information.” U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has also expressed mirroring concerns regarding how the law will impact free speech.

Moscow has responded by rebuking the U.S. State Department for its “gross interference.”

While the label of “foreign agent” under the new law does not directly charge the NGO with espionage, it does carry with it negative implications of unpatriotic behavior. Such implications has led the leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, to turn down foreign grants in order to avoid having to register the group as a “foreign agent.” The Moscow Helsinki Group is one of Russia’s oldest human rights organizations.

Alexeyeva, who turned 85 pm Friday, asked supporters not to give her any gifts but to offer financial assistance to her organization to make up for the funding cut.


For further information, please see:

Chicago Tribune — Russia’s Putin signs NGO “foreign agents” law — 22 July 2012

The News — Putin signs law branding NGOs ‘foreign agents’ — 22 July 2012

France 24 — Putin signs law branding NGOs ‘foreign agents’ — 21 July 2012

Jurist — Putin signs law labeling NGOs as ‘foreign agents’ — 21 July 2012

Ria Novosti — Putin Signs Foreign Agent NGO Law — 21 July 2012