Age of Consent -- Turkey
|SCHOOLGIRL'S DESPAIR AT TURKISH
Feb 19 2003
By Patrick Mulchrone
IT was the moment love-struck
schoolgirl Rachael Lloyd had dreaded.
A verdict and possible sentence were about to be
passed yesterday on the Turkish barman she had fallen for on holiday.
She looked down at a translation of the judge's
words and saw "five years' imprisonment".
LOVERS: Mehmet Ocack and Rachael
Rachael said later: "I read 'five years' and
Tears started to trickle down her face and she
promised to wait for 24-year-old Mehmet Ocak - found guilty of having underage sex with
Rachael, 15, who ran away from home last year to
be with Ocak, said: "It's just not fair. These people don't live in the real world.
"He shouldn't be in jail. It was my idea to
run away to Turkey and to have sex with him. I'm just going crazy worrying about him
locked up in a prison cell.
"But I'll wait for him, I swear I'll wait
Four judges at a court in Gaziantep, south east
Turkey, convicted Ocak of statutory rape after the couple had denied underage sex
Ocak claimed he did not know Rachael was only 14
when they first met last summer in Marmaris. The age of consent in Turkey is 15.
At the time Rachael, from Wrexham, North Wales,
was on holiday with her gran - with whom she lives - and sister Beckie, 16.
She stayed behind for 10 days to be with Ocak and
later skipped Britain on a false passport to rejoin him.
The Daily Mirror helped her divorced father Bob
to track her down and bring her home.
Yesterday, after Rachael and her dad had flown
1,000 miles to try to secure Ocak's freedom, she saw her worst fears realised.
She stood pale-faced and nervous beside her
father as judge Riza Sahin delivered the verdict and sentence after only 15 minutes'
Rachael's gaze jumped from the back of Ocak's
head in the dock in front of her to the notes being scribbled in English by her Turkish
lawyer standing at her shoulder.
As the shock of the "five years" hit
home, Ocak was led from court. They exchanged smiles and he shouted: "This love will
Rachael's father - who chose to support her
campaign to help Ocak rather than risk losing her again - was equally stunned by the
Lawyers had suggested to them that Ocak - who
Rachael calls Steve - would go free.
Bob, 46, said: "She is really, really upset,
but I'm trying to be strong for her.
"I know it's strange doing what I'm doing,
but this is a really strange situation." He had chosen not to press charges after his
first visit to Turkey.
Ocak - said to have cheated on Rachael with other
tourists - was detained in December as part of a public prosecution.
During his hour-long trial, he recalled what
happened last year: "I told Rachael that problems would occur and she had to go. But
she did not go.
"Rachael said that she loved me so much and
wanted an engagement with me. We got engaged at the hotel. Rachael went home crying and
unwillingly." She was later sent a diamond and sapphire-encrusted gold ring by Ocak.
In a grey suit and black shirt, Ocak claimed in
court that Rachael's gran Carol Lloyd and her sister had offered her hand in marriage.
Ocak said he agreed and told how Rachael later
"escaped" from her home in Britain.
HE said: "She came to Istanbul and phoned
me. I went to Istanbul and we travelled to Marmaris together."
They moved on to Ocak's home in Gaziantep. He
said his family were against the marriage because the economy there was not good.
Told by the presiding judge that Rachael was
"just a girl", Ocak's lawyer Yasar Saglam said his client didn't ask any
questions about her age.
Ocak said: "She didn't say and I didn't need
The judge asked dad Bob, through an interpreter,
if he wanted to make a complaint..
He rose to say only "No." The judge
asked if Rachael's age on her passport was correct. He confirmed it was. Then the judge
asked Rachael if she wanted to complain. Rachael, in jeans, a black denim shirt and denim,
fur-lined coat, rose to say "No." Asked if she had had sex with Ocak, she said
She said she had first had sex in Britain with
Ocak's brother Ali said Mehmet intended to marry
Rachael. He was told that until she was 18, that would only be with court approval.
After the verdict, Ocak's lawyers spirited the
Lloyds away from court, avoiding a battery of TV cameras.
Rachael met Ocak's mother Neriman, sister Selma
and brothers Ali and Sedat at a hotel nearby.
She was hugged by Neriman, who said: "I love
my son Mehmet and Rachael and I want them to marry.
"I have seven grandchildren. Only Mehmet and
Sedat among my children are not married. I want to see their children and caress
Rachael's father said: "I think her hopes
were built up by his lawyers. She was even planning a dinner for his release. But she says
she'll wait for him and I believe her."
Rachael said of her dad: "This has proved
how much he loves me and how much I love him. We never really got on before."
Ocak's lawyers were hopeful of cutting the
sentence to less than two years.
TURKEY LAWS: 1. Homosexual activity is legal, the age of sexual consent is 18 for
vaginal and anal sex, and 16 for all other sex.
2. Homosexuals are banned from the military, and homosexual officers and conscripts must
serve prison sentences of 3 to 6 months, officers are discharged immediately following
3. The southern town of Adana bans public male-male kissing, public male-female and
female-female kissing are still permitted.
4. Article 10 of the Law of Associations can be used to make gay
Turkey - Turquie - TurquŪa
I. Ages for legal purposes
Age of simple majority The
legal age of majority is eighteen (18) years.
Age of consent for sexual activity
There is not precisely a legal age of consent for sexual activity.
Age of consent for marriage
The legal age of consent for marriage is seventeen (17) years for male persons and fifteen
(15) for female persons.
From six months to three years punishment is required to those who have sexual
intercourse with a child.
Any violence increase the punishment to at least seven years.
III. Other forms of child sex abuse
There isnt any article considering sexual intercourse with a child committed
If the crimes are committed against minors by their kin or by those who have authority
they are punished half fold more.
Anyone who has intercourse with a child under the age of fifteen (15) is punished
with not less than
5 years imprisonment.
IV. Child prostitution
Child prostitution under the age of twenty-one (21) is forbidden.
It should be mentioned here that no complaint has reached to the police so far.
V. Child pornography
To our knowledge, there are no special legal provisions concerning the offence of child
Article 426 of the Turkish Criminal Code :
" Whoever exhibits obscene books, newspapers, pamphlets, magazines, documents,
advertisements, pictures, illustrations, photographs, movie films or other items ; or who
stage or show these things in theatres, cinemas or other public places, or who knowingly
distributes or sells or suffers them, or the photograph records of the same nature, to be
or sold, or who in order to make profit or to distribute or exhibit such items, draws,
carves, manufactures, prints, or reproduces such items, or records them on photograph
imports, exports or transports them form one locality to another in Turkey, or suffers the
activities to be performed, or who performs any transaction respecting any of the
objects, or performs any transaction to facilitate the trade thereof, or who, in any
publicly known the ways of procuring, directly or indirectly, these documents or items,
imprisoned for one month to two years and shall be sentenced to pay a heavy fine of 15 to
Article 427 of the Turkish Criminal Code :
" The provisions of foregoing article are applicable also to the writes of obscene
documents or advertisements and to those who have assumed administrative responsibility
newspapers or magazines containing such writings or pictures.
The documents and objects mentioned in the foregoing and in this article, shall be
and destroyed. "
Article 428 of the Turkish Criminal Code :
"Whoever openly sings obscene songs, plays such pornographically records, or sells
pamphlets and other documents by way of pronouncing words which are against public decency
injurious to a persons or a group of persons honour and dignity, shall be
imprisoned for one to six
months and shall be sentenced to pay a heavy fine of 30 to 50 liras. "
EDITOR: Sorry, we have lost our source for this document.
EDITOR - Jan 28, 2000: Thanks to the reader who pointed our where our information
came from. Here is the link:
"I came across with the info about age of consent in Turkey. You have stated that
you forgot where you got the info from. It's actually from Lambda Istanbul's website. The
web address is: http://www.qrd.org/www/world/europe/turkey The new
website of Lambda Istanbul in turkish is: http://www.lambdaistanbul.org Best
regards, (name removed for privacy).
The age of consent in Turkey is 18. There are no articles on homosexuality in the law
but vague references to public morals and public order. The police has the legal right to
take anyone who looks suspicious to the police station for interrogation. The general
crime level in big cities is among the lowest in Europe. Nine milliion tourists are
expected to visit the country in 1996.
Turkey is geographically, politically, economically in Europe. More than 90% of its
population is muslim. The police has wide powers, and some fractions in the police force
has close ties with the radical nationalist right-wing groups. Despite the lack of any
organized gay bashing, gays have not been allowed to come out and get organized in an open
fashion. gay movements so far have been underground movements. "International
Christopher Street day" (gay pride) festivities planned to take place in Istanbul in
July 1993 was first allowed, and then banned by the local government officials before
taking place. A similar attempt to organize a cultural week in September 1995 by Lambda
Istanbul was not allowed on the grounds "of public morals".
Homosexuality was a rooted tradition in the era of Ottoman Empire which lasted more
than five centuries. It is known that some of the sultans had homosexual affairs and
public Turkish baths (hammams) were the common meeting place among men. There were poets
and musicians who were known to be homosexual. These traditions lost their power with the
westernization of Turkey which came with the establishment of the Republic in 1923. But
there is a general acceptance towards effeminate male entertainers. For example the most
famous Turkish classical singer Zeki Muren is a latent, extremely flamboyant gay person,
and has been so since 1950's or BŁlent Ersoy, who is a very popular and has multi-million
selling albums although being a transexual.Turkey has a macho culture, and this is
reflected in gay attitudes: Traditionally, gays are divided into the active (laco) and the
passive (lubunya). However a more recent and a more westernized culture is beginning to
gain ground where no categorization is felt necessary.
Rather than challenging the discriminatory emphasis on female virginity, Turkish criminal
law and, ultimately, state practice reinforce it. Turkish criminal law makes female
honor the state's business.33 Many sex crimes are defined by Turkey's criminal code in
terms of their impact on women's virginity and honor. In fact, sexual assaults against
women are classified by law as "Felonies Against Public Decency and Family
Order." In contrast, other forms of battery are considered "Felonies Against
Crimes against public decency and family order include rape,34 acting "indecently in
public" or engaging in sexual intercourse in public,35 removing "the
virginity of a girl who has completed fifteen years of age, with a promise of marriage,"36
and abducting an adult woman through force, violence, threats or fraud and "under
lascivious feelings or with the intent of marriage."37 The statutes defining
many of these crimes explicitly refer to the virginity of the victim. For example, causing
a woman or girl to lose her virginity after falsely promising to marry her is a felony.
Medically documented loss of virginity is considered evidence of the crimes of seduction,
statutory rape and removing virginity with a promise of marriage.
A man charged with any of these crimes can escape criminal liability by marrying the women
bringing charges.38 If family members suspect or know that a woman has had sexual
intercourse, they may attempt to force amarriage between a daughter and her sexual partner
by filing criminal charges with the police who then take her for an exam. Thus, if
statutory rape or "removal of virginity" is charged by family members, a girl
may be required to submit to a virginity exam.
The designation of sex crimes as violations of community or family morality has two
consequences. First, it identifies the community and not the individual woman as the party
that suffers harm consequent to the crime. Second, it defines the harm done in terms of a
woman's honor rather than her physical integrity. The investigation and prosecution of sex
crimes thus stress not the physical harm to the woman but rather her honor and thus public
decency and family order that may have been compromised.39 Consequently, sex crimes
committed against non-virgins are perceived to be less serious offenses than those
committed against virgins because the potential damage to family order is less grave.
Until the late 1980s, for example, Article 438 of the Turkish Criminal Code provided
reduced penalties for men convicted of rape and abduction where the victim was proved to
be a prostitute.40 The emphasis on public decency and family order in codifying sex crimes
lays the groundwork for women's honor‚rather than the physical harm
suffered‚to be the central question at issue in such investigations.
Virginity or lack thereof is not relevant to and does not determine the legitimacy of a
claim of sexual abuse or assault. Nonetheless, prosecutors and judges may unfairly deem
evidence of a woman's virginity to be relevant to any charge of sexual assault, even
though loss of virginity is not an element of the crime of rape.41 Thus, women alleging
sexual assault are judged in light of the invidious notion that a woman's sexuality, as
indicated by her mode of dress, lifestyle or status as a virgin, implies consent to sexual
relations or a lack of credibility. Assessing a woman's credibility as a witness and asa
victim in light of her reputation for modesty, or lack thereof, reinforces the different
standards by which men and women's sexual behavior are judged.
Nonetheless, gynecological exams are performed in the course of investigating most sex
crimes, in part for the purpose of determining whether the woman involved is a virgin.42
This not only invites discrimination in the adjudication of such crimes, but also is
inconsistent with the Turkish criminal code. Local doctors, activists and lawyers concur
that vaginal exams may be performed at the state's behest only (1) consequent to the
filing of criminal charges and then only with the woman's willing participation in
collecting evidence to support her charge, or (2) as a part of regular health checks for
working prostitutes pursuant to Turkey's present law on prostitution. Moreover,
gynecological exams pursuant to criminal charges may be performed only at the request of a
prosecutor or judge.43 Despite such regulations, state officials compel women to submit to
vaginal exams without their consent and when no criminal charges have been filed alleging
a sex crime.
The Turkish authorities' involvement in or tolerance of forced virginity control exams
violates rights expressly guaranteed by the
Turkish constitution. Forced virginity exams violate women's right to privacy as protected
by the Turkish Constitution.44 Sexual intercourse between consenting adults is not
illegal in Turkey, thus the consensual sexual conduct of unmarried women is
protected against the unwanted scrutiny of police and other state officials. Police have
no legal justification for harassing women in their homes or on the street for suspected
sexual conduct. Such scrutiny violates women's right to be free from arbitrary
interference with their privacy and homes. The exams themselves violate the right to
privacy by subjecting women's bodies to unwarranted and invasive searches.
The infliction of virginity exams also violates the Constitution's guarantee of freedom
from discrimination.45 As the testimonies below demonstrate, the state discriminates
against women by acting to control women's private, sexual practices with the threat or
imposition of abuse to which men are not subjected.46 Thus, although both men and women
may suffer torture or cruel and degrading treatment while in police custody or be detained
for improper behavior, only women are subject to degrading and abusive treatment
pertaining to their sexual conduct. Moreover, the bias that maintains the legitimacy of
the state's interest in women's sexuality is imbedded in laws and state practices that
attempt to monitor women's, and not men's, sexual conduct. For example, if an unmarried
couple staying in a hotel is detained for suspected prostitution, it is the woman who is
questioned about her sexual conduct and examined for evidence of lost virginity. In other
words, her virginity or lack thereof may be considered evidence in an investigation of
illegal prostitution whereas his sexual practices are not considered relevant to the
investigation. Nor is he threatened with or subjected to comparable invasions of his
privacy and physical integrity.
The detention of women for suspected illegal prostitution and their subjection to
virginity exams also raise questions regarding due process. The ICCPR states that
"[n]o one shall be deprived of his liberty except on suchgrounds and in accordance
with such procedure as are established by law."47 The Body of Principles for the
Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (Body of Principles)
provides a number of due process protections relevant to the arbitrary detention of
Turkish women accused of illegal prostitution. First, it specifies that no one shall be
detained without an effective and prompt opportunity to appear before a judicial or other
authority and an opportunity to defend herself. A detained person has the right to know
why she is being detained as well as the terms of her detention. Further, detained persons
should not be denied the opportunity to communicate with family and counsel. Finally, the
Body of Principles mandates that
detainees be treated humanely and with respect for their dignity. "No circumstance
whatever may be invoked as a justification for torture or other cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment."48
Turkish officials operate in flagrant violation of these principles. Evidence indicates
that police detain women for suspected illegal prostitution or immoral activity without
justification and without first conducting any kind of investigation to support their
accusations. These women are not charged with the crime of practicing prostitution
illegally. Nor are they brought before a prosecutor or judge. Instead, they are held
without charge and forced to submit to gynecological exams, which we previously described
as a form of cruel and degrading treatment. Some women are then held against their will
and forced to undergo treatment if they are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.
33 The Turkish criminal code is based on the Italian criminal code of 1889, which was
adopted by Turkey in 1926. The code
has been greatly amended and over half of its articles changed. In addition to the
criminal code, there are numerous penal
statutes which pertain to specific crimes and regulate special fields of criminal law. Dr.
Feyyaz Golcuklu, "Criminal Law," in An
Introduction to Turkish Law, Tugrul Ansay and Don Wallace, Jr., eds. (Deventer,
Netherlands: Kluwer Law and Taxation
34 Turkish Criminal Code, Article 416.
35 Ibid., Article 419.
36 Ibid., Article 423.
37 Ibid., Article 429.
38 Ibid., Articles 423 and 434.
39 The law even provides a remedy for the perceived harm of lost honor by creating an
incentive‚suspension of criminal
prosecution‚for a man charged with certain of these crimes to marry his
"victim" and thus minimize the consequences of her
loss of honor.
40 Article 438 was challenged in Turkey's constitutional court as violatory of the
Constitution, but the court rejected the claim
on the grounds that dishonest women, i.e. prostitutes, should not be treated the same as
honest women. After much public
debate, the Turkish parliament repealed the provision in 1988/89. Canan Arin, Report on
Women's Status in Turkish Law
(unpublished paper), September 27, 1991.
41 Interview, Istanbul, July 8, 1993.
42 When a woman files a criminal complaint alleging a sex crime, the court or prosecutor
may direct that an examination be
conducted for the purpose of gathering forensic evidence. The doctors responsible for
performing gynecological exams in such
cases are forensic physicians employed by the ministry of justice to act as court
consultants. The police, however, have no
independent authority to send women to forensic medicine for gynecological exams. A doctor
asked by the police to perform
such an exam is required to send the case back for authorization from a judge or
prosecutor. Interview, Prof. Dr. Ozdemir
Kolusayin, director of Istanbul Forensic Medicine, Istanbul, July 9, 1993. Doctors
referred to in this report as forensic
physicians are employees of the ministry of justice.
43 Interview, Dr. Ozdemir Kolusayin, director of Istanbul Forensic Medicine, Istanbul,
July 9, 1993.
44 Article 17 of the Turkish Constitution provides, "The physical integrity of the
individual shall not be violated except under
medical necessity and in cases prescribed by law." The Turkish Constitution also
specifically protects individuals' privacy.
Article 20 states that "[e]veryone has the right to demand respect for his private
and family life. Privacy of individual and family
life cannot be violated. Exceptions necessitated by judiciary investigation and
prosecution are reserved."
45 Article 10 of the Turkish Constitution provides that "[a]ll individuals are equal
without any discrimination before the law,
irrespective of language, race, colour, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief,
religion and sect, or any such consideration."
46 Although it may be argued that the status of men's virginity cannot be ascertained with
a medical examination, neither can the
status of women's virginity be determined conclusively with a gynecological examination.
Yet only women are questioned about
their virginity and selected as targets for invasive and degrading exams. Interview, Dr.
Nahid Toubia, M.D., January 13, 1994.
As a Turkish doctor told Human Rights Watch, the fact that a woman's hymen is torn or
damaged "is not necessarily evidence
of sexual intercourse." Nonetheless, the perception is "if her hymen is
ruptured, then she is not a virgin." Interview, Dr. Sebnem
Korur Fincana, M.D., Istanbul, July 8, 1993.
47 ICCPR, Article 9.
48 Article 90 of the Turkish constitution provides that international treaties ratified by
the Turkish government have the force of
domestic law. Thus, the human rights instruments ratified by Turkey strengthen domestic
protections for victims of human rights
abuse. Principles 1, 6, 11, 12, 13, 15 of The Body of Principles for the Protection of All
Persons under Any Form of Detention
or Imprisonment, U.N. General Assembly Resolution 43/173 of December 9, 1988.
In Istanbul, a doctor and professor of forensic medicine asserted that families
frequently bring women and girls to the state forensic medical department for virginity
exams. This doctor stated that during her residency in forensic medicine, at least one
woman was brought for a virginity exam every time that she worked the nightshift. Many of
these women allegedly were attempting to force men to marry them. The doctor recalled two
cases of women over eighteen who, when asked for their consent, refused to undergoan exam.
In both instances, the women's families agreed not to pursue a virginity exam.95 This
underscores the fact that doctors who respect women's right to refuse virginity exams can
effectively prevent this abuse from occurring.
See articles and comments on virginity testing (Forced
virginity tests banned)
Pre-marital sex under the age of 18 is illegal in Turkey.