Child Marriages Awareness Panel - 12 October 2017, Gaziantep

Another in the series of Child Marriage Awareness Panels, a series of panels intended for women and men refugees seeking help in Turkey, was held on October 12, 2017 this time for men refugees in Gaziantep. The panel’s content concept was developed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and organized in cooperation with UNFPA’s implementing partners the KAMER Foundation and the Association for Solidarity for Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM).

The panel has aimed to raise awareness of and attract attention to child marriages, a serious human rights violation against children, also a widely practiced phenomenon being a significant problem among refugee families seeking help in Turkey. In the panel, presenters talked about Physical, Psychological and Social Dimensions of Child Marriages, Legal Status and Obligations in Early Age Marriages in Turkey and Child Marriages from the Islamic Perspective. 

Child Marriages Awareness Panel was organized in cooperation with the Foundation of KAMER and the Association for Solidarity for Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM), the implementing partners of UNFPA in Turkey, was funded by European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). The panel in Gaziantep attracted 250 refugees men.

In her opening speech, Burcu Yıldıran, KAMER’s Gaziantep coordinator, said that they have been executing the Women’s Health Counselling Centre Project since 2015, with which they have delivered services to Syrian women and girls in respect of sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial support, material distribution and empowerment of women.    

Emre İlker Cece, Southeast Anatolia Regional Coordinator of the Association for Solidarity for Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM), said that SGDD has been engaged in humanitarian aid projects since 1995, and that at the moment they are providing protection, humanitarian aid and support services to Syrian refugees in 72 centres in 46 provinces.  

Fatma Hacıoğlu Sarıdağ, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Humanitarian Aid Programme, Regional Programme Manager, said in her opening remarks that every year, 15 million girls under 18 years of age are married across the world. Underlining that “we all have responsibility to create a more liveable world for our children”. Sarıdağ noted also that that every one of us must make an effort to guarantee the rights of girls.  

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Reproductive Health Programme Coordinator Dr. Gökhan Yıldırımkaya, informed the participants in his presentation on the physical, psychological and social adverse affects of child marriages, with special focus on its impacts on the health and life quality of the children. He especially underlined that child marriage is a human rights violation which has serious impacts on the reproductive and mental health of children. Dr. Yıldırımkaya added that every individual under 18 years of age has to be protected in every possible sense. Dr. Yıldırımkaya further stated that the period from the birth until 24 years of age is defined as adulthood stage, and that the part in the brain regulating the behaviours matures between 18-20 years of age. He indicated that a marriage under 18 years of age would increase the risk of mortality among mothers 2 to 5 times and that of new-borns 3 times.  

Şafak Yılmaz, lawyer from the Bar Association of Gaziantep, informed the participants about the legal dimension of child marriages. Underlining that every marriage under 18 years of age, the legal marriage age in Turkey, is illegal according to the Turkish Criminal Law, he said that a girl or a boy who has not turned 17 years of age yet can only be married by a court verdict.  

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mehmet Nuri Güler, from Harran University’s Faculty of Theology, who made a presentation with the theme “Child Marriages from the Islamic Perspective”, said that child marriage is a serious problem in almost every community across the globe. Emphasizing that the marriage act is the most divine act giving rights and imposing responsibilities on men and women alike, he said that our religion also stipulates a procedure based on agreement. Güler added, “in a marriage one of the parties can never be of minor age; both parties must be mature, namely both must have reached the age of puberty”.  Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mehmet Nuri Güler said that in Islam a man and a woman who would get married must give their consent in accordance with the verses and hadiths stipulating that both parties have to be of full legal age to be able to get married. Mr. Güler ended his presentation with the question: “How can a girl of minor age, herself in need of being cared, care for other people?”  

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Women and Girls Safe Spaces (WGSS)

One in three women in the world marries before the age of 18. Unless essential and effective studies are conducted about child marriages, it is expected that the number of women who marry at a young age will reach 1.2 billion as of 2050. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Turkey Office has been offering capacity development, service provision, reproductive health services and hygiene supplies in women's health and violence against women within the scope of the Humanitarian Aid Program since 2011.

In this respect, Safe Spaces for Women and Girls (WGSS) have started to forge cooperation with various organizations. The centers established in various cities in 2017 with the support from the European Commission Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), US Government, Swedish Government and Japanese Government mainly operate in sexual and reproductive health, gender based violence, psycho-social support, empowerment and supply distribution for asylum seeker women and girls.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was established in 1969 and as the biggest aid source with international funding in the area of population operating around the world. UNFPA operates in more than 150 countries for creating policies and strategies that support sustainable development. Having started its activities on a project basis, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been working on reproductive health, encouraging social gender equality, collecting, using and distributing data about development and humanitarian aid in Turkey since 1971. Within this framework, the first Country Program lasted from 1988 to 1992 and now the Sixth Country Program (2016-2020) is being executed.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. To this end, UNFPA focuses especially 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); SDG 3: Good health and well-being, SDG 4: Quality Education, SDG 5: Gender Equality and finally, SDG 17: Partnerships for Goals

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