The Turkish prime minister has delayed a bill that would have allowed men to legally have sex with underage girls — so long as they married them afterwards — after international and domestic condemnation.
Binali Yildirim, Turkey's PM, made a last-minute decision to delay the bill ahead of the final vote in parliament on Tuesday, after it passed the first parliamentary reading last week.
The proposed bill would allow men who had sex with underage girls — "without force, threat, or trick" — before Nov. 16 to have any sentencing postponed indefinitely. The legal age for consent in Turkey is 18.
Online, Turkish women expressed their disgust for the bill.
The hashtag #TecavüzMeşrulaştırılamaz — "Rape cannot be legitimized" — trended in Turkey ahead of Tuesday's vote.
Protesters also gathered outside Ankara's parliament earlier today before the PM announced the bill would be delayed.
MPs from the ruling AK Party, which proposed the bill, defended it by suggesting it was intended as an amnesty for men who married underage girls with either their or their family's consent.
The PM had rejected suggestions the bill was an "amnesty for rape."
The proposal was also widely condemned internationally. "Any forms of sexual violence against children are crimes which should be punished as such," a joint statement on Monday by Unicef, the United Nations Population Fund, UN Women, and the UN Development Program said.
The bill also drew cross-party criticism from politicians inside Turkey, prompting an online petition against the bill that drew more than 800,000 signatures.
Following the government's 11th-hour roll-back, Yildirim said the bill would be revised to "give time for the opposition parties to develop their proposals."
Turkey has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Europe. Roughly 15% of girls are married by 18. Campaign group Girls Not Brides cautions that this may be an underrepresentation, as many marriages are not registered by the state because they take place as religious ceremonies.